Commentary

How Much Will Digital Platforms Pay For Journalism?

The cost of doing journalism is a source of debate as news publishers demand that digital platforms with billions of dollars in yearly advertising revenue shoulder more of the burden.

U.S. antitrust authorities are said to be looking into the issue, while this month, Australia is expected to publish draft rules that will force Facebook and Google to share revenue with news publishers.

Amid this debate, BuzzFeed founder-CEO Jonah Perretti foresees a future for free, ad-supported journalism among "five or six platforms that all have scale," according to an interview with The Information. BuzzFeed has seen revenue from digital platforms grow from "not material to pretty significant," he told the technology news site.

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Facebook last year began paying publishers for news content, and Google last month announced plans to open its checkbook in a program that will start this year. As part of that effort, the search company will pay publishers to give its users free access to pay-walled articles and help to subsidize their journalism.

These market-based solutions between the digital platforms may help to quell criticism that they unfairly profit from news publishers without investing in their journalistic efforts.

Australia's upcoming rules could be a watershed moment for publishers, especially if Facebook and Google determine that it's less costly if they remove news from their platforms.

In the U.S., the proposed Journalism Competition and Preservation Act that would let publishers collectively negotiate with Facebook and Google has received bipartisan support, but appears to be stalled somewhere on Capitol Hill. The law would give more local newspapers a fighting chance against Silicon Valley giants that control how millions of Americans consume news.

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