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Facebook and Google paying publishers

Facebook and Google have announced that they will start paying news publishers for editorial content. Both agreements come after long and, at times animated, discussions about how the giants should share advertising revenues with publishers. Google has earlier announced the launch of Google News Showcase where the search engine will pay publishers for full text access to a limited number of news stories per day. Facebook recently announced it is expanding its News Tab to cover also the UK and that the social media company will pay publishers to submit content for the news service. The News Tab has been tested in the US market and Facebook said the service will next be launched in France and Germany.

We’re in active negotiations to bring Facebook News to France and Germany as well, and we will continue to work with publishers in countries where market conditions and regulatory environments invite this kind of investment and innovation.”

The European Union has an updated copyright directive that must be implemented in member countries´ legislation in the spring 2021. The directive states that users like Google would have to pay publishers for using snippets of their news stories in for instance search results. Google originally objected to the directive and said only publishers allowing it to continue using snippets from the news texts in search results for free would be included in search results. Those not agreeing would just have headlines included in search results. Google has since long said the publishers anyway benefit from the traffic Google creates for the publishers´ websites. Publishers have objected saying Google is using its dominating position as advertising platform and that the company should share some of its impressive ad revenue with the publishers.

France became a kind of test site for how to implement the new EU copyright directive and a court recently said Google must negotiate with French publishers to find a solution.
Facebook started a test of its News Tab in the US a couple of years ago. When the Australian government recently announced a code of conduct meaning that for instance Facebook would have to pay publishers for news on the social media platform, the company strongly objected but has now in the UK announced agreements with a large number of British publishers to pay them to contribute news content to the Facebook News Tab.

During the test period in the US, Facebook said it would pay for content from publishers that the company wants to have in its News Tab. Also other publishers were welcome to join but they would not be paid for their content, just benefit from an expected increased traffic to their web sites.

The government in London recently announced plans to create a new competition watchdog to govern the relationship between news publishers and digital platforms such as Facebook and Google.

In a blog post, Facebook said it will pay publishers “for content that is not already on the platform” and help them to drive new audiences.

The first group of publishers to sign up were reported to include local newspaper groups Archant, JPI Media, Reach and Midlands News Association and publishers The Economist, The Guardian, Evening Standard and The Independent plus magazine publishers Conde Nast and Hearst. Facebook said it expected many more publishers to join before launch in the UK in January. Media magazine Press Gazette reported the Daly Mail to be among them.

The News Tab will offer “a mix of curated and personalised top stories to deliver informative, reliable and relevant news”, the social media giant said. The service will be a mix of using algorithms for automated selected and also editors from Upday, an editorial curation service run by German publisher Springer.

The launch of Facebook News in the US has, the company said, seen 95% of the traffic delivered to publishers come from new readers who have not interacted with them in the past. The News Tab links to publishers´ websites, so will drive traffic back to them rather than keeping it on Facebook. Paywalled articles will also be included on the platform.

Press Gazette reported that payments to publishers will not be based on the number of clicks generated or the number of articles produced.

Facebook said it ”is committed to supporting news organisations as they adapt to the changing digital world, and we are delighted to have so many partners working with us at this early stage.”
Google has earlier said the company will spend USD 1 billion paying publishers for content over the next three years via a platform called Google News Showcase. Google´s mother company Alphabet later signed copyright agreements with six French newspapers and magazines, including national dailies Le Monde and Le Figaro after months of discussions about how to apply the new EU copyright rules.

Google initially fought against the idea of paying publishers for the content, saying their websites benefited from greater traffic brought by Google.

The new agreements are reported to be based on criteria such as the publisher’s “contribution to political and general information,” the daily volume of publications, the monthly internet traffic and the use of their content on Google’s platform.

Google says it will be paying participating publishers to provide “limited access to paywalled content for News Showcase users.” Those users will, however, still need to register directly with the publishers, which Google says will give them a way to build a relationship.

The agreements with French newspapers involve Google News Showcase, which already has agreements with leading publications in Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, France, UK and Australia.

The main News Showcase format is essentially story panel, and Google says it’s introducing a new panel allowing publishers to curate a daily selection of their most important stories. Those panels will be shown to users who follow those publishers.

Google is also bringing the News Showcase to new devices and channels. It started out on Google News on Android and is now available on iOS as well, with plans to expand to the website and Discover soon.

Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, said the News Showcase was “distinct from our other news products because it leans on the editorial choices individual publishers make about which stories to show readers and how to present them”. He added that it would “give readers more context and perspective on important stories in the news and drive high-value traffic to a publisher’s site” and that it was aimed at helping the overall sustainability of news publishers around the world.

“Alongside other companies, governments and civic societies, we want to play our part by helping journalism in the 21st century not just survive, but thrive,” he said.

Der Spiegel’s head of product development Stefan Ottlitz told the Financial Times the News Showcase showed Google was “serious about supporting quality journalism in Germany”.

However, the European Publishers Council said many of its members are “quite cynical” about Google’s strategy.

“By launching their own product, [Google] can dictate terms and conditions, undermine legislation designed to create conditions for a fair negotiation, while claiming they are helping to fund news production”, EPC executive director Angela Mills Wade said. “It is not yet clear how ‘News Showcase’ will work for all publishers and there are questions how it can work in tandem with publishers’ strategies to implement the EU press publisher’s right. It is important that publishers have the freedom to enforce their rights directly or participate in collective agreements negotiated under European Union law.”

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