News Media Alliance Urges FTC To Adopt New 'Data Poaching Rule'

The News Media Alliance, a trade association -- which represents around 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada -- has called upon the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to safeguard journalism and adopt a “data-poaching rule” that would limit dominant platforms' ability to reap first-party consumer data from publishers and shift up to 10% of platform revenue to content creators.

The request for the FTC to ensure that news and magazine publishers maintain the ability to benefit from digital advertising under any potential consumer privacy rules comes in response to the FTC's Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on commercial surveillance and data security, which requested stakeholder feedback on whether the agency should implement new trade regulation rules on how companies use consumer data.

The Alliance argues that dominant technology platforms use their market power to collect consumer data broadly throughout the internet -- not just to provide a service in exchange for data -- while also dictating the contractual terms of any services they provide, giving them broad usage rights to the data they poach. 

“Third-party collection and the selling of user data on websites owned by news and magazine publishers is not within a reasonable expectation of our readers,” the nonprofit states in their comments to the FTC. “The platforms' extensive tracking of consumers can eventually lead to an erosion of consumer trust and weaker competition in digital advertising markets.”

The Alliance's proposed data-poaching rule would grant the sole right to collect consumer data to the known owner or operator of the digital property with whom the consumer interacts.

Based on Apple's privacy changes over the last two years, the Alliance believes that it can be expected that around 10% of current revenue received by dominant platforms like Meta (which reported around $10 billion in digital ad revenue losses since Apple's changes) will shift to publishers, including news and magazine publishers.

This shift, the Alliance believes, could result in increased-quality journalism.

The Alliance highlights the key role high-quality journalism plays in supporting a healthy democracy and vibrant local economies, as well as the importance of digital advertising in supporting investments in journalism, stating that it provides an important revenue stream to publishers, allows publications to remain free from government control, and helps hold the press to a high level of integrity.

To maintain a trusted relationship with readers, the Alliance believes publishers should disclose their data collection practices, including that they use digital advertising to provide free or low-cost journalism to their readers, “a quid pro quo that benefits publishers, advertisers, and readers, who generally prefer targeted advertising if done correctly.”

The Alliance also discusses how many publishers -- especially small and local newspapers -- are struggling to stay afloat despite magazines and news publishers’ sizeable audience (news publishers reach 40% of Americans, while magazine's reached over 221 million in 2020, without duplication).

Newspaper circulation and advertising revenues have dropped from $57.4 billion in 2003 to around $20.6 billion in 2020.

Magazines have experienced a drop from $46 billion in 2007 to $23.92 billion in 2020.

“As a result, thousands of communities are now news deserts with no local daily newspapers, while many magazine publishers have reduced frequency or cut print editions altogether, in an effort to merely survive,” the Alliance adds.

“Regulators must act now to address the monopolistic practices of the dominant platforms that suppress competition and threaten quality journalism in the digital ecosystem,” stated Alliance Executive Vice President and General Counsel Danielle Coffey. “Federal consumer privacy rules, if drafted properly, could help rebalance the playing field, with the Data Poaching Rule ensuring that those who produce original content and build long-lasting and trusting relationships with their users benefit the most from digital advertising on their websites.”

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