Commentary

U.S. Newspapers Block E.U. Readers Following GDPR

On Friday, the GDPR finally went into effect, after years of hand-wringing by media outlets. While some brands reported 43% of their user data would become unusable following its introduction, other outlets — namely newspapers across the U.S. — chose to block out E.U. readers entirely for fear of violating the conditions of the regulation and facing large fines.

As reported by The New York Times, papers owned by media company Tronc — which publishes The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel and The Baltimore Sun — displayed a message for visitors from the E.U. that read:

“We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the E.U. market. We continue to identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with our award-winning journalism.”

The USA Today Network limited access to its site, instead greeting E.U. readers with its “European Union Experience,” which collects no data from users to help sell advertising.

The burden of the GDPR on U.S. newspapers comes at a time when those outlets need protecting as much as the consumer.

While many are experimenting with membership programs and pay walls, few have found a way to remain profitable as digital advertising dollars are gobbled up by Facebook and Google, resulting in layoffs and budget cuts across the board.

Just last Thursday, Google held meetings with members of the media to discuss its controversial approach to the GDPR. The four organizations — Digital Content Next, European Publishers Council, News Media Alliance and News Media Association — which have spoken out loudest against Google published this statement following those meetings and the implementation of GDPR:

"This is only day one, but the biggest problem is Google’s inflexibility around the legal contract they expect publishers to sign. Despite the facade of cooperation, Google is effectively saying to publishers that they have to trust what they do with their readers’ data, whilst not telling them what they actually do with that data.

"In the context of serious liability under GDPR, publishers will find it difficult to accept these terms. Google is effectively putting a gun against publishers’ heads.

"As we know, Google holds a vast share of the digital advertising market and there are very few alternatives. The implication in not signing Google’s GDPR terms, and not doing business with them, is that publishers will suffer dire consequences in terms of revenues. This is a flagrant abuse of their dominant position."

Julia Shullman, the chief privacy counsel for the digital advertising firm AppNexus, argued in a second New York Times’ story that the GDPR could actually make Google stronger as more media outlets are forced to partner with it to comply with the new regulations.

That's ironic, given that the GDPR was meant, in part, to protect consumers from companies like Google and Facebook.

As of Friday, Google and Facebook were already facing formal complaints citing forced consent by each entity.

No doubt, the effect of the regulations on media outlets will lead to a new level of upheaval in an already deeply unsettled industry.

2 comments about "U.S. Newspapers Block E.U. Readers Following GDPR".
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  1. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, May 29, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

    Is this censorship in another guise? Castro, Chavez, Khameini and other dictators that would control the press with "official licenses" would be interested in this regulatory method.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 29, 2018 at 11:01 a.m.

    Let's be honest. This is not just about newspapers as your heading suggests.

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