For generations, the daily newspaper has been a daily staple of American life. The Gazette or The Herald or The Journal came every morning (or afternoon) with the latest news, sports, advertising, comics, puzzles, stocks, TV, etc. – something for everyone.
Clippings documenting family triumphs and tragedies were pasted into scrapbooks, folded into Bibles and pinned to the refrigerator door. In many ways the newspaper was treated like a member of the family. It could make you smile. It could make you angry.
Newspapers were a constant presence.
Then came the internet age when much of what we do moved from analog to digital. Things were supposed to be better when driving this new information superhighway that promoted free speech and robust debate. For those businesses that make their living by gathering and disseminating news, however, it’s been a bumpy ride.
As the audience transitioned from the profitable legacy print product to a digital platform, news“papers” embraced the opportunity. Here at the Polk County Standard Journal, all content goes online first and in print in a future publication. There is digital bonus content – more stories and photos … we’ll even read the news to you. By all accounts, our readers have endorsed the efforts: the audience for this newspaper’s content has never been larger. So what’s the problem?
While Silicon Valley promised us milk and honey, only a handful of Big Tech companies, namely, the duopoly of Google and Meta (formerly Facebook), arrived in Eden.
Consider: Of all the digital advertising dollars being spent in the U.S., these two behemoths gobble up more than half. Throw in Amazon and the triopoly’s take grows to about $7 out of every $10 spent. That means the rest of us – all other companies, media or otherwise – fight over the remaining 30%.
To say these three tech companies built highly effective mousetraps is undeniable. But they’ve also used their success and power to ensure there’s no more room at the party.
In a recent editorial for America Newspapers, Chris Reen of the Clarity Media Group, summed up the situation:
“While Google and Facebook are amassing billions of dollars in advertising revenue, small, local and independent media companies, which produce content that fuels these platforms, have to fight for scraps. Big Tech does everything it can to ensure that its users never leave their platform for other sites — depriving small and local publishers of their chance to monetize their content.
“As a result, small, local and independent publishers are shuttering their doors, and the companies that don’t align with the ideologies of Silicon Valley’s elite that make up these tech giants are punished and censored. Recent reporting shows that local newspapers in the U.S. are dying off at a rate of two per week, as 360 newspapers have shuttered since the end of 2019.”
America, including some in Congress, have recognized this threat to community journalism. A handful of bipartisan solutions that would curb Big Tech’s pillage are afoot in the nation’s capital. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) is one of those solutions.
Introduced in March of last year, S. 673, according to Congress.gov, “creates a four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws for print, broadcast, or digital news companies to collectively negotiate with online content distributors regarding the terms on which the news companies' content may be distributed by online content distributors.”
That means the act would allow local news publishers to come together to negotiate terms with companies such as Google and Meta. To do so now is a violation of antitrust laws.
From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:
“A big part of the problem is that Google and Meta (Facebook) control online advertising. No small local newspaper has the clout to negotiate with those giants on even footing. Nor do most medium and large news publishers. Instead, Google and Facebook dictate the terms. They take a big cut of online revenue. Then they add insult to injury by appropriating news content and running it on their sites instead of directing readers — and their precious hits — to news websites.”
Simply put, these two companies use locally produced news content to draw audience and then sell that audience to advertisers. It only seems fair that those who produce said content be given a seat at the negotiation table.
The public agrees: A News/Media Alliance poll found 70% of Americans believe it is important for Congress to pass the JCPA.
Newsrooms are expensive. Reporters, photographers, sports writers and editors work hard to cover the news of the community … and deserve to be paid for their efforts. The level playing field created by the JCPA would go a long way in allowing newspapers to navigate local journalism’s ongoing financial challenges.
If you believe a news outlet – be it online or in print – continues to be an integral part of your community, urge your member of Congress to support the JCPA and ensure Big Tech doesn’t wipe out local journalism.
Senator Raphael Warnock (D)
B40D Dirksen Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3643
Senator Jon Ossoff (D)
825 B&C Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
DC Phone (202) 224-3521
Marjorie Taylor Greene (R)
1023 Longworth House Off. Bld.
Washington, DC 20515
DC Phone (202) 225-5211
DC Fax (202) 225-8272