Jim Beam’s column: Tech giants get free news
Posted on Sunday, August 21, 2022 at 7:28 am
It’s hard to read other newspapers these days. I have been reading many newspapers for over 60 years. Before the Internet, the American press bought exchange papers that came by mail. The Internet has made it possible to read online.
Now even that is becoming difficult. Here’s what you’ll find on most local and national newspaper websites:
“This content is only available to subscribers. Get unlimited digital access. $1 for 6 months.
I was able to read a story on The Guardian website but I read 5 articles last year and I explained that it is a newspaper funded by readers and at the end it said “Support us today a little bit”. $1. thank you.”
The Washington Post let me read a story, and on the second try, it said, “Try it free for 4 weeks. The coverage you need. You need clarity. Cancel at any time.
I found a couple of paragraphs on the Wall Street Journal website about the deflationary rule story and the message said: “Continue reading your article with a WSJ membership. Special offer. $8 per month.
Stories can be found on the Baton Rouge Advocate’s website, but it’s $9.99 a month to read the newspaper per page for broader coverage. It has statewide coverage and investigative capabilities and is a premier sports newspaper.
My friends often send me links to stories they think I might like, but some of them are hard to read.
OK, what’s the problem?
Lynn Hohensee sent me a story by Corey Myers, lead news director of the Sioux Falls Argus, that explains it well.
Myers said South Dakota has lost 17 newspapers in the past 18 months. He added that it is a model across the country. The news industry has lost more than 28,000 jobs since 2008, and “more than 1,800 communities have lost local newspapers since 2004,” he said.
I recently tried to read a story on the Lafayette Daily Advertiser website that said “$1 for 6 months” but failed. When I typed the title of the story into the Google site, the story popped up. The story originally appeared in the Lafayette Daily Advertiser on Yahoo with a message below.
That, my friends, is the problem.
“A big part of the problem is that two tech companies, Google and Facebook, have a stranglehold on online news and advertising, denying newspapers the revenue they deserve,” Myers said. The same is true for local broadcasters.
The technology giants distribute news content provided by newspapers, which increases their advertising revenue. Myers said they made the decision to pay publishers regardless of their journalistic work, “contrary to the companies’ practice of compensating music publishers and other creators.”
A 2019 story in the Salt Lake Tribune said Congress is considering legislation “to allow news outlets to work with search engines like Google and social media providers to make certain profits from their content to ensure newsrooms aren’t shut down, or shut down entirely.”
According to a similar story, the News Media Alliance estimated that Google earned $4.7 billion in ad revenue in 2018 alone by “deleting content from news publishers.”
Google disputes that figure, saying the company helps news outlets by pushing readers down their path.
The Journalism Competition and Protection Act advanced in that 2019 discussion, but is still sitting in Congress. It would allow a temporary antitrust exemption to allow news organizations to negotiate with Google and Facebook to get fair compensation for journalism.
The Mankato (Minn.) Free Press urged the bill’s passage in its Aug. 5 edition. Weekly and small daily newspapers are often the only source of local news, he said.
“When they’re closed, there’s usually no one to monitor city councils, county boards, school boards and law enforcement,” the editor said.
Another idea floating around Congress is establishing a temporary tax credit for news outlets to hire or retain local journalists. It will no doubt give newspapers an incentive to continue their business.
Unfortunately, the chances of the current Congress getting newspapers to help them seem slim to none. So newspapers turn to readers and some to donors to help them survive.
Surviving newspapers know that getting help from Congress is difficult in our time, so they are getting better and more efficient.