The Media Blog: America’s newspapers are begging government to save them

The irony of all of this, especially under Donald J. Trump.

Newspapers in America have run to the government to ask for help to negotiate better deals with Google and Facebook.

A piece by the New York Times media columnist, Jim Rutenberg explains this:

“Quality journalism, which is expensive to produce, is under economic pressure as never before.

“Google and Facebook continue to gobble up the digital advertising market, siphoning away revenue that once paid for the quality journalism that Google and Facebook now offer for free.

“They are gaining increasing control over digital distribution, so newspapers that once delivered their journalism with their own trucks increasingly have to rely on these big online platforms to get their articles in front of people, fighting for attention alongside fake news, websites that lift their content, and cat videos.

“And for all of Google’s and Facebook’s efforts to support journalism by helping news organizations find new revenue streams — and survive in the new world that these sites helped create — they are, at the end of the day, the royals of the court. Quality news providers are the supplicants and the serfs.

“It’s an uneasy alliance that has publishers chafing at the returns they receive from Google and Facebook, which rely on the free flow of premium news and information


“So what we used to call “the newspaper industry” — but which now includes outlets with robust online existences — is coming together to make its biggest push so far to change the balance of power.

“This week, a group of news organizations will begin an effort to win the right to negotiate collectively with the big online platforms and will ask for a limited antitrust exemption from Congress in order to do so.”

A piece by the chief executive of the alliance makes the imperative clearer:

The only way publishers can address this inexorable threat is by banding together. If they open a unified front to negotiate with Google and Facebook—pushing for stronger intellectual-property protections, better support for subscription models and a fair share of revenue and data—they could build a more sustainable future for the news business.

This is very clearly desperation, as a Slate piece notes:

“Yet weakness bordering on desperation is exactly the position in which many of them now find themselves, and even some modest short-term gains would buy them much-needed runway to keep trying to figure things out. The possible exceptions include national papers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, which have more to lose and are not in any imminent existential danger. (It helps that they’ve learned how to turn far-flung online readers into paying digital subscribers.) The current news economy holds much more opportunity for national and special-interest publications than it does for the local, general-interest papers that have long formed the backbone of American print journalism. When you’re shedding jobs, circulation, and revenues every year, as most metro dailies are, a Hail Mary pass isn’t the worst play call.”

It will be interesting to see how it all ends

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