Newspapers get bullied (again)

Tomorrow's Business

The relationship between newspapers and the big tech companies is like that of the small kid in class with the school bully.

When the bully gets in trouble with the head teacher, he pretends he wants to be friends.

The small kid giddily goes along.

Once the bully is in the clear, he reverts to type.

This week The Times reported that pressure is building for Facebook and Google to share revenue with publishers.

The paper of record noted:

“The Facebook and Google “duopoly” now account for more than two-thirds of the UK’s digital advertising market, according to analysts eMarketer. Much of their traffic comes from people circulating or searching for news stories, but the companies have resisted pressure to reimburse publishers for their content.”

I’ve seen this movie before. What happens next is the tech firms decide they are genuinely under pressure from the head teacher (the regulators). They make friends – offer a revenue sharing deal with newspapers.

The newspapers get giddy. Wow, Google to the rescue! They announce this excitedly to staff. The tone of their coverage of the big tech firms changes markedly.

Six months later they see the fruits of this revenue sharing deal, and note that it amounts to three quarters of chuff all. They issue editorials about big tech being too powerful, but momentum has been lost.

Today, The Guardian reports that Amazon, the internet retail giant vilified for years as public enemy No 1 to booksellers, is behind a £250,000 gift to those same bookshops.

The paper thinks this is good news, though it notes that chief executive Jeff Bezos has seen his personal fortune grow by $24 billion to $138 billion during the pandemic.

In that context, £250,000 is like a gift from a Mafia boss. You’d decline it if you could.

Contact the Tomorrow's Business team news@tomorrowsbusiness.co