This month News Media Alliance called on Facebook and Google to be held accountable for their role in the proliferation of fake news, and squeezing publishers’ revenue to boot. This bold non-profit alliance represents nearly 2,000 news outlets and their multiplatform businesses in North America, calling themselves the ‘Voice for News Media’.
Due to antitrust laws, publishers currently represented through News Media Alliance – including the likes of Condé Nast, Hearst and the Washington Post – are unable to collectively negotiate with the big players, which publishers are fighting against due to the empowerment it gives Google and Facebook.
It’s not without justification. News outlets are concerned about Facebook and Google’s dominance, especially when it comes to discovery and distribution. eMarketer has forecasted the behemoths will account for 60% of online ad revenue in the US this year. Changing consumer behaviour is increasingly forcing publishers to be more reliant on these platforms, leaving them scrapping over the remaining shrapnel of traffic and revenue.
The irony and unfairness is clear – social analytics company noted that the ten most engaging pages on Facebook are all news titles. So, news outlets are driving dwell time and engagement with Facebook’s newsfeed, but not reaping a fair slice of the pie.
It’ll clearly take more than a handful of publishers leaving the platform for users to follow suit. News Media Alliance must negotiate as representatives of the wider news outlet group. Otherwise Facebook will feel no need to pander to the requests of publishers, and especially when there are plenty socially-native pages more than happy to hoover up that cheap traffic.
But there’s perhaps a silver lining – Google and Facebook are struggling to manage this with the proliferation of sites driving online traffic through clickbait headlines to tap into the opportunities of the fake news phenomenon.
This has forced Facebook and Google into a corner: Google is seeking out the help of users themselves to report inappropriate or incorrect content; whereas Facebook has hired fact checkers and is trialling technology to stop the distribution of unchecked sources. Combatting fake news, a directive traditional publishers pride themselves on, may be the solution to a fairer negotiation between news titles and the technology duopoly.
If a closer relationship – something Facebook continues to declare it’s committed to – can diminish the ease of fake news proliferation, then news outlets will regain their foothold on readership through multiple platforms, futureproofing Facebook and Google’s relationship with their users. A win-win for all.