Small news publishers band together in negotiations with tech giants Google, Facebook – ABC News


Small news publishers band together in negotiations with tech giants Google, Facebook
A group of small independent publishers from across Australia have banded together to negotiate with Google and Facebook to display their news content on their platforms.
It is something larger media organisations, including the ABC, have also had to do since the federal government introduced new laws this year.
The Public Interest Publishers Alliance includes the Tarrengower Times in central Victoria, and the Koondrook and Barham Bridge newspaper on the Murray River on the News South Wales border.
They are part of the Australian Rural and Regional News network along with the Naracoorte Community News, Cape York Weekly, Narrandera Argus, and a host of other regional publications.
The media code introduced last year by the federal government means publishers now must negotiate with the online search engine and social media giants in a bid to have them pay to disseminate and republish news organisations' content.
Within a couple of years the likes of Google and Facebook will devour more than half local ad revenues, leaving only crumbs for traditional media players.
The decision at the time led Facebook to block access to news sites for several days before a compromise was made with the government.
Alliance spokesperson James Harker-Mortlock said after the Seven West Media and Nine networks did deals with Google and Facebook, it left small publishers behind.
"The thing is that unless the federal government designates Facebook and Google, they are not compelled to negotiate with smaller publishers," he said.
"They can, if they wish, and I'm glad to hear that Google is at least sounding a bit more positive.
There are more than 300 independent publishers in Australia and Mr Harker-Mortlock said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) must allow the publishers to be able to collective bargain.
"So what we do want to see though is that there's proper recognition of the work done by the smaller publishers who, across the board, probably have as many readers and listeners and users as the big end of town," he said.
Chris Earle is the independent publisher and editor of the Loddon Herald in Wedderburn in Central Victoria.
He is a former Liberal government adviser and a journalist, and started the Loddon Herald in January this year during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Earle said while online and social media were tools that publishers use for the awareness and promotion of content, at the end of the day newspapers, whether they are print or online, remained a core part of many companies' business model.
"Look at the Loddon Herald, online versus print it's about 15 per cent online, and that really does correlate and validate the survey of rural and regional publishers – 70 per cent of people want local news in print," he said.
The Buloke Times, a family-owned and run newspaper that has been going for 145 years, said 2020 was one of the toughest years for small businesses in recent memory as advertising revenue became harder to come by from local businesses.
But there was also the birth of newspapers such as the Ararat Advocate — which started in May 2020 after the Ararat Advertiser shut down — and the Horsham Times, launched after the Wimmera Mail-Times ceased publication in the same year.
Tech giants may have to make it clearer to consumers how their private information is used, get proper consent and face significant penalties for breaching privacy laws.
According to the network of independent publishers, they are not banking their futures on royalties from the social media and search engine companies.
"It's not as though we're dependent upon this. I mean, it certainly would be a boost if we got it. But we're all very independent," Mr Harker-Mortlock said.
"If you go to our website and you see some interviews with some of the independent publishers, these are not people you're going to just knock over in an afternoon. They're very tough and resilient."
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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