Google Starts Paying for News in Australia

Posted on February 17, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Google with 24 Comments

After threatening to pull Search from Australia because of a proposed new law requiring it to pay for news, Google has started paying up. See? This is what can happen when governments, lawmakers, and regulators stand up against Big Tech.

Last month, Google mounted a campaign to get Australia to reverse course on its planned News Media Bargaining Code, which would require it—and other companies like Facebook—to start paying for the news they had been scraping off the websites of Australian-based content creators. It threatened to pull Google Search from that market if the country refused.

Now, not so much. With the new legislation set to pass in Australia, Google has struck deals with some of the country’s top news outlets, and will now pay them for the content it has previously stolen. The deals are said to be worth tens of millions of dollars per year. Google will also pay newsmakers like The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch, and The New York Post, and it has separately reached a deal with France.

Google’s about-face is exactly what Australia was hoping for: The new legislation specifically allows media companies to individually or collectively make deals with content scrapers like Google and Facebook.

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Comments (24)

24 responses to “Google Starts Paying for News in Australia”

  1. vladimir

    this is very good news. I hope many countries will take example from Australia

  2. chaad_losan

    This needs to be done in the US. The free ride is over.

  3. divodd

    Google helps the news sites get traffic, if anything the news sites should pay Google for the privilege

  4. noelt1955

    Facebook’s vice president of public policy for the Asia-Pacific region, Simon Milner says today in reference to Facebook's removal of "news" from its site.

    "This is a really hard thing to do. We’ve never done it before. We are sorry for the mistakes we made in some of the implementation,”

    Reminds me of Microsoft's " really hard computer problem".

    Are these guys serious?

  5. noelt1955

    I'm OK with an outcome that makes it clear to all Facebook users that there's no actual (the product of professional journalism) news to be found on their site. If folks want to float around in an echo chamber of ill informed commentary and unfiltered conspiracy theories, at least it will become clear that Facebook is just the bubble for them. It's fine (sometimes) for family and friends to communicate via FB, but it has always been a lousy source of fact or mediated information and opinion.

    I get the argument that says FB provided a vehicle for greater diversity and smaller players, and I have no love for the Murdoch media empire, but I think it's time we dreamers of a better world accepted that the creation of quality content requires infrastructure - always has. And when well meaning creators are dependent on one dominant add-driven piece of infrastructure (FB) that has no real interest in them or what they generate, we get what we got.

    If we could get Jeff Jarvis to speak at half pace, occasionally stop to say "What do you think?", and be willing to accept that an imperfect media landscape is better than a squalid one, an interesting discussion might be held. But until then.....

    I'm a proud Australian today and delighted that the new legislation (which I imagine will morph around over time where fuzziness creates problems) had both government and opposition support. Even if we had the Filibuster (which thank God we don't), this one would have sailed through. Boy does FB need a new PR crew down here!

    And, just as an aside, this is not our first foray into battling the giants. Much of the western world's anti smoking legislation had its genesis down under.

  6. John Craig

    Big tech needs heavy handed legislation. Any move by any government towards that is positive thing.

    Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook have been left unchecked for years, and every one of them has abused their position in one way or another.

    They seem intent on scraping up every last penny of wealth on the planet, and distributing it as they see fit, through advertisement selling, product selling, service selling, entertainment selling and app selling. They often sell these things through walled gardens, shutting down competition and making it impossible to negotiate fees or compare product costs.

    Occasionally, they'll throw the dog a bone by paying a paltry fine, or signing up to a transparency charter that they had a heavy hand in writing, or creating a platform separate from their main business which appears to offer a fairer playing field, but ultimately still enriches them.

    People, I'm no tin foil hat wearing right wing conspiracy theorist...far from it. But there's no arguing that big tech has gotten far too big and abusive.

  7. IanYates82

    Related.... Facebook banned the sharing of news site links for Australians today, and the entire world cannot share any Australian news site link

    They weren't bluffing...

    That's the big news here down under today (ignoring a political scandal to do with a horrible sexual assault in our parliament)

    • openmisere

      In reply to IanYates82: FB just made the Aust Gov'ts point to regular consumers about FB's market power in a real/practical way that the Aust Gov't never could. Let FB go. Creators should never have trusted FB with their livelihood and consumers will find other ways to get their news.

  8. Rycott

    It's not as straightforward as Google bad, News outlets good.

    70% of News outlets in Australia are owned by News Corp. They control the narrative on things down here.

    • melinau

      In reply to Rycott:

      Yes, like UK the big players are largely owned by people (mainly Murdoch!) whose views & behaviours are every bit as distasteful as those of the Tech bosses & Corporations. However, there is a principle here & it's worth holding out for. Next up let's try & tax some of the huge amounts they syphon out of countries & squirrel away without tax.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Rycott:

      Yes, Jeff Jarvis has been blasting Murdoch and groaning at Google for capitulating. As I tweeted him, I didn't want either side to win this.

      "Who do you want to win, the tyrants of old media or the tyrants of the Internet?"

      "Hmm, honestly? Neither!"

  9. skipper

    Good on the Australian government for calling Google's bluff to pull search from Australia. This monolith of a company has roughly 95% search share in Australia and because of this threat Aussies are already flocking to other search engines like Duck Duck Go and Bing. Microsoft were in talks with the government to fill any voids left if Google did follow through, so I was kinda hoping they did follow through.

    Now Google has shat their pants a little bit and decided to do the deal that will see Australian news providers and journalist paid for their content that generate Google's revenues. Google can afford this, 2019 Australian revenues were 4.8 billion and they paid bugger all tax.

    Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi

  10. gregsedwards

    I don't presume to know all the details of the deal, and my sense is that it's probably a win for media companies. But I do wonder what the potential negative implications are, especially for smaller content producers, who may now be completely ignored by behemoths like Google or Facebook, now that they have to pay to surface their content. If Google wanted to incorporate content from a site like this one, would it just wait until the story had been picked up by a larger media outlet with whom they already had an arrangement?

    • Paul Thurrott

      This is like wondering how the little guy will be impacted when the Empire is defeated in Return of the Jedi. Job one: Defeat the enemy.
    • wright_is

      In reply to gregsedwards:

      They don't have to pay, they have to negotiate. I'm guessing if a small outlet said, "you can index and highlight any of our content," that would count as a closed negotiation... But you have to be able to talk to somebody at Google and they are notoriously bad at talking.

    • owenm

      In reply to gregsedwards:

      The problem with the new laws is that they don't benefit all media companies equally. It's a huge win for News LTD, not so much other media companies, and publically funded media (ABC, SBS) see no benefit at all.

      Facebook has decided to go the route of restricting news stories in Australia. This limits smaller media companies from reaching their audiences whilst larger organisations are mostly unaffected.

      • noelt1955

        In reply to OwenM:

        My understanding is that the ABC is currently in negotiation with Google and that significant money is being spoken of. I do agree that this will clearly favour the big players, but the ABC is, quite rightly, one of them.

        When I first started playing around on the Net in the early 90's I thought how wonderful this was going to be in terms of a diverse media landscape, but as the years have passed and garbage has littered that landscape, I'm not so sure I'm better off than I was in the 1970's when I got my news from

        The Age

        The Sun

        The Herald

        The ABC - both 3LO and Channel 2

        The Shepparton News, and

        3 commercial TV networks

        In those days, while diversity was limited, I couldn't easily escape it.

        Now, I can pick and choose (or even worse, get algorythm fed "news") so that I experience no diversity at all.

        The modern myth of media diversity is at last being laid bare. What looks on the face of it to be a plethora of choice has, albeit counter-intuitively, led to a multiplicity of walled gardens - some a lot bigger than others. My guess is that in, let's say 1975, the average Joe was presented with greater media diversity than he/she is today.

        • melinau

          In reply to noelt1955:
          I know what you mean. When multichannel TV came to UK & we could choose between hundreds of channels, not just 4 FTA, the cynics, including me, suggested it was a choice between 100 channels of dross. We now have the added unpleasantness of QAnoN conspiracists, uncontrolled prejudice & racism blasted at us from the darker corners of the Internet.

          O tempora, O mores!

  11. dftf

    Okay, seriously, am I missing something about this whole Google News issue?

    I use Google News every-day. I click on articles I think look interesting, which then takes me to the webpage of the company hosting that news story, in some-cases, local outlets I would never usually go on, as they're not my local news. So that's an extra page-visit they'd otherwise never have got. So... how is Google News a bad-thing there?

    The only legitimate issue I can see is Google's "AMP" technology, where you can view the entire article without actually visiting the end website: you get a sort-of cut-down version. So maybe Google should just end that and ensure you always go-through-to the host site.

    But besides that, I really don't see the main argument here. I'd never visit half the sites I do usually!

    • Paul Thurrott

      Well, for starters, Google silently stopped promoting Australian-based news sources when this started so that they would not appear in search results. The stories it does promote are surrounded by its ads, and the money goes to Google, not to the news writers. So over time, they could disappear. Over time, quality and variety goes down. The negative impact here is obvious. Google News isn't just an app or whatever. There's a whole service behind it that feeds into Google Search and Google's main source of revenue.
  12. codymesh

    on the other hand, Facebook decided to block all Australian news publishers and users from posting/sharing Australian news content on Facebook. Amazing.

  13. melinau

    Great news. I only wish the UK Government had the intelligence & courage to take-on Google & Facebook (to name but two). These two behemoths have grown fat & quite lazy by effectively re-publishing others' work for many years without contributing anything much of their own. This isn't "Socialism" as some are trying to label it, it's simply a fair reward to the myriad content creators whose work is used without financial recompense.

    Next up, let's see if Google & the rest want to pay us for all our personal data which they so assiduously collect - allegedly for our benefit!