Content creation vs content communication
You may have noticed a pop-up ad on YouTube recently titled “Open letter to Australians – The way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new regulation”. Similar articles about the way we use Facebook have also appeared in the news.
The news story dates back to April, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg appearing on ABC News to demand Facebook and Google pay for Australian news. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has locked horns with these companies in particular over news content. Australia would be the first nation to have such an arrangement with Facebook and Google; it is unclear whether that is a positive or negative precedent to set.
For the average Australian consumer, there is no clear winning argument. It is true that the news industry is suffering, especially independent and rural publications. Print journalism as we knew it is rapidly destabilizing, and many are scrambling to transition online for engagement. On the surface, “Facebook and Google should compensate news sources for their content” seems entirely reasonable. ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the regulations would “address a significant bargaining power imbalance” between the Australian news media and internet conglomerates.
However, according to Google’s own Google Down Under blog post, searches around current events make up approximately one percent of Australian searches. With only four percent of the content on Facebook News actually being classified as “news”, investing in Australian news content would not be a clever move for Google or Facebook.
Similar rules in Spain and Germany ultimately resulted in a reduction of traffic and ad revenue for publishers, who are heavily dependent on online platforms. The Bloomberg Opinion editorial team put it best in “Facebook Shouldn’t Have to Pay Publishers for News”: to paraphrase; demanding two companies fix the issues facing Australian press on a false pretext is not good policy-making.
Federal governments have proven themselves to be less than knowledgeable about the digital landscape before; Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 testimony to US Congress, anyone? Whether the proposed regulations would benefit the Australian news industry or harm the user experience of these platforms for individuals is made less clear by the amount of spin used by both sides. At the time of writing, there is no indication of either side backing down.
It is relevant to us, as local small business owners. By way of example, Dify Social media marketer Rhia Daniel recently appeared on Ticker TV. Quite rightly Ticker TV charge a “Business interview”, which provides the interviewee IP rights of the full interview and capacity to share online and across social media channels.
Under the proposed policy, Ticker TV could then be required to compensate Dify Social to share their content across Dify Social’s channels. Social media presence is becoming more and more important for small business, and more viable as a marketing platform than even five years ago. The free platform of social media empowers small businesses to establish a public presence when traditional print media may have overlooked or under-served their business. During lockdown conditions, the ability to communicate directly to consumers, target relevant audience and continue operations online for a low cost has been vital for small business survival. Pursuing these new regulations, these businesses could be compensated for providing content; changing the way social media functions forever.