News consumption is growing exponentially, but for the past decade, the revenue to news publishers has been on a decline. This is, in large part, because of the unbalanced relationship between news publishers and tech platforms. But that relationship could be changing thanks to the recent re-introduction of the “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act” by House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, D-RI, and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga.
The bill, which would provide news publishers a safe harbor in which to collectively negotiate with platforms like Google and Facebook, could help news producers receive the fair distribution and monetization terms we’ve long been fighting to get from the duopoly.
Because of their market dominance – and access to billions of users – platforms set the rules for publishers, which they are forced to play by, and which affect how their content is displayed, prioritized and monetized. These rules have led to the commoditization of the news and the inability of consumers to maintain a direct relationship with those who publish quality news by real journalists. Rewarding low-quality content in the interest of chasing clicks, the platforms are incentivized to degrade our brands, relationships with readers and ability to adequately monetize our content.
The platforms also capture nearly 60 percent of all digital advertising dollars because of their unique ability to collect consumer data across the web, at the expense of the publishers. These behaviors make it next to impossible for individual publishers to strike beneficial deals with the online behemoths.
However, there is power in numbers, which is what we need in order to have a fighting chance. The antitrust safe harbor bill would provide a four-year window for news publishers to collectively negotiate for fair terms that would flow earned subscription and advertising dollars back to the publishers, while protecting and preserving Americans’ right to access quality news. Parameters included in the bill ensure that these negotiations would strictly benefit Americans and news publishers at-large, not just one or a few publishers.
If passed, this bill would allow our industry to more fully control our product by allowing market forces, not two companies, to determine how and for what price our content is offered. It would allow everyone from small local publications to major online publishers the opportunity to receive a return on their investment and therefore sustain quality journalism, which is necessary for an informed democracy and civic society.