Commentary

Will Publishers Benefit From Breaking Up Tech Giants?

Amid growing calls among publishers  for more regulation of tech giants like Facebook and Google, it's not completely clear how those actions would change audience behavior and lure back advertisers.

Facebook, which has extended an olive branch to news publishers by paying for their content for special section of its site, still sees journalism as ancillary to its business of commodifying people and their relationships. It pays nothing for user-generated content, like baby pictures and cat videos, while spending billions on weeding out toxic posts from hate groups, terrorists and pedophiles to make the platform "safer" for advertisers.

With the 2020 election looming, all eyes will be on Facebook and its role in re-electing President Trump. A Trump victory is likely to bring back more admonishments that Facebook was manipulated by Russians or political consultants like Cambridge Analytica to sway the votes of "persuadables" in rural Michigan.

A stronger competitor to Facebook wouldn't necessarily give publishers another platform to bid for their content, given how unimportant it is to the user experience.
Google also doesn't need publisher content to deliver eyeballs to advertisers.

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Very few people use Google to look up news, even though the site generates massive traffic for publishers. Only 0.1% of Google search queries are for journalistic content, according to a study by Sistrix, a Germany digital marketing company. I'm guessing that Google searches for pornography outnumber those for other kinds of content.

Given Facebook and Google's indifference to other media outlets, publishers must grow more reliant on their readers for income, just as Netflix does to remain ad-free.

GroupM yesterday published a report about Netflix's disruptive power on broadcasters, compelling to consider whether their ad loads are alienating viewers. While younger generations are more averse to advertising, that hasn't hindered the growth in social media and search platforms whose ad revenue continues to climb.

Declining ad revenue for publishers consigns their content to a handful of elites who can afford it, deepening the gulf between information haves and have-nots. Media bias magnified by Silicon Valley will continue to ensure than neither group is more informed than the other.

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