The American public consumes more news than ever, with more than 200 million unique visitors consuming digital news each month. However, the economics of that consumption will not sustain the investments needed for quality journalism. The news industry has seen revenues drop 54 percent since 2006, according to research from Pew. The rise of the tech platforms and their dominance of online content has played a major role in this trend.
Although many may claim that the two trends are unrelated and that the news industry has not adapted to digital distribution, a new study, containing analysis conducted by experts at strategy and economics consulting firm Keystone Strategy and written by the News Media Alliance, illustrates that the news industry’s loss has been directly impacted by Google’s gain.
According to the study, news content has produced significant financial returns for Google:
• 39 percent of search results and 40 percent of clicks on trending queries are news content;
• 16 percent of results and clicks on the “most searched” queries are news results;
• In 2008, Google News generated approximately $100 million to the company;
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• Based on News Media Alliance members’ traffic, news consumption on Google Search is at least six times larger than on Google News;
• Taken together, Google made an estimated $4.7 billion in revenue from news content in 2018; this is a conservative estimate, with the actual number likely being considerably higher.
As a result, publishers are losing ad revenue, brand recognition and valuable data that could help them build stronger relationships with their readers. Google, on the other hand, is generating more traffic and user data that they can use to keep consumers in their ecosystem for even longer periods of time.
While information wants to be free, journalists need to get paid. This requires finding common rules for a fair and equitable online ecosystem that allows publishers to thrive and maintain the quality of their content that readers expect.
Local news publishers’ health and sustainability – and that of our democracy – requires the platforms to acknowledge their role and to engage with publishers to create a more just digital marketplace.