Microsoft Backs Publishers Getting Paid For News, Even In U.S.

Microsoft on Thursday lobbied for other countries to follow Australia's lead in calling for news outlets to be paid for articles published online in the United States, Canada, the European Union, and other countries.

“The United States should not object to a creative Australian proposal that strengthens democracy by requiring tech companies to support a free press,” Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a blog post. “It should copy it instead.”

Smith explains why Microsoft believes the Australian proposal deserves serious consideration, including in the U.S.

In a lengthy statement he explained why Microsoft fully supports proposed legislation in Australia that would force Google, Facebook and others to compensate media for their journalism.

He listed several “pressing questions” aimed at the Biden administration, and explained how Facebook and Google persuaded the Trump administration to object to Australia’s proposal.

“As we know from our own experience with Microsoft’s Bing search service, access to fresh, broad and deep news coverage is critical to retaining strong user engagement,” Smith wrote. “This means that news content generates significant indirect value for search and social media sites -- as much as $4.7 billion annually for Google, according to one recent study -- even though people often do not click through to the original story.”

If publishers are not compensated, it hurts them while all this traffic fuels platforms that have become profitable tech gatekeepers on which businesses must advertise to reach consumers.

"The ultimate question is what values we want the tech sector and independent journalism to serve," Smith wrote.

Microsoft’s Bing search service has less than 5% market share in Australia, according to the company’s numbers. It is substantially smaller than the 15% to 20% market share in PCs and mobile searches in the U.S., and the 10-15% share in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Smith also explained how he and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reached out to Prime Minister Morrison to say that even if Google wanted to leave Australia, Microsoft would stay.

Earlier this month, Google did strike a content deal with publishers in Australia. Some of those publications include The Canberra Times, The Illawarra Mercury, The Saturday Paper, Crikey, The New Daily,  InDaily and The Conversation.

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