After spending the better part of the last decade strangled every possible cent from the digital media industry, is finally getting the heat that Google deserves. More and more people realized The monopoly of digital advertising companies is one of the culprits behind a surprising number of absence from the newsroom. Regulators realize that this digital dominance can be a serious one antitrust issue. Taken together, that means a huge headache for Google that could, in the eyes of the company, solve something: a decent payment.
The company’s latest attempt to regain some goodwill among publishers is a three-year, one-billion-dollar partnership that will go towards the company’s latest product, the Google News Showcase. CEO Sundar Pichai released the Showcase on a company blog post earlier today, it promised to highlight the “editorial arrangement of award-winning newsrooms” while also helping newsrooms present “deeper relationships” to their readers.
Showcase was the first to debut on standalone Google News app for Android, which includes a rollout for iOS users coming soon “soon.” As the name implies, the app will literally start “showing” the top stories of the day as a carousel under the personalized daily brief. Next to the headlines, these stories will be made show summary of the story in question, related articles, and more. And according to Pichai’s post, similar features in showcase-y are set to arrive Discover Google feed and Search engines “in the future.”
I know it sounds like the average app most of us use for reading the news on our phones today. But Pichai wants you to believe that Showcase – which is being tested by nearly 200 “top publications” across Canada, the EU and Latin America before a wider launch in the future – is not just news. This is future news:
The business model for newspapers – based on ads and subscription revenue – has been evolving for over a hundred centuries as audiences turn to other news sources, including radio, television and later, the proliferation of cable television and satellite radio.
The subtext here is that Google owns a piece of every part of the ecosystems that Pichai has practiced. When we started switching to podcasts for more of our news, Google tweaked its ad delivery systems to accommodate hyper-targeted audio ads. When we started getting more of our news through our smart television, those systems began to adopt television targeting capabilities, as well. And when the authorities in countries across the Atlantic forced Google hands in providing publishers a larger cut of their ad money, the company proved to be without the above threatening to break own news products for the region in retaliation.
With the Showcase announcement, Google seems to be under the impression that giving publishers a shiny new packaging for stories and calling it a “unique approach” is enough to distract us — and regulators— from the way the business model seems ingestion every source of news before our eyes.
The cut that Google usually takes from a given publisher partner is a secret watch, but last year the company opened the black box a tiny little one to reveal that publishers are generally profitable 69 cents for every dollar an advertiser spends on their site. According to Google itself support page describing the platform facing the publisher, the company takes a bigger cut from the stories that can appear on the Google search engine, with only 51% returning to the publisher in question.
And naturally, for people who want to pay to support their local news site, Google driven partners with its publisher to give readers the option to subscribe to their Google account, promises them the technology that usually delivers a serious uptick in subscription numbers. But when readers subscribe through this system, the company draws a 30% cut of cash paid by the reader for the first year, and 15% for each year thereafter.
While we cannot single out the calculation of what Google can do with the media industry in general (even people Tried), we know how much Google has gained from advertising recently: Investor documents in 2019 from parent company, Alphabet, Google reports that it is earning approximately $ 98 billion in revenue that year from “search and more” advertising
Think about it in comparison to what it has to offer publishers: $ 1 billion, split three years for a total of more than $ 333 million per year. That is not just a drop in Google’s huge bucket of money, but it probably won’t go where it needs to go. While Pichai’s blog about Showcase promises that this amount will be directed to “high-quality” publishers they can show their “high quality” content, the two biggest ad giants of our time – Google and Facebook – have proven that they do not understand what the phrase really means. In 2019, the dedicated Facebook news tab slid BreitbartStories in what is considered high quality and trustworthy. LGBTQ-focused sites that use Facebook or Google tools to keep their lights on have found their stories wrong flagging as pornography or obscene, and demon – or later turned a blind eye-the result. Here for outlets focused towards Black or Latinx readers, since advertisers tend to earmark any story involving critical conversations about race or immigration as too “controversial” for their brands – and their money. These tiny pieces of paper that over time reach a massive bleeding wound (or indefinite furloughs) for the newspapers involved.
I can go on here, but instead, let’s look at Pichai’s final statements in the Showcase announcement, when he called digital media the “latest shift” in the way we consume our news:
The internet is the latest transfer, and it is certainly not the last. Along with other companies, governments and civic societies, we want to play our part by helping the 21st century journalism not only survive, but thrive.
The types of shtick that Google pulls here and abroad do not teach a company that wants to develop journalism, period. It points to a company that wants to thrive behind journalists, and want those journalists to take this paltry payout offering in exchange. Personally, I think we are better than that.