Setting the Record Straight on Google and Canadian News Publishers.
Last month, News Media Canada released a report attacking Google for the decline of their business and demanding that we pay for the inclusion of news results in Google Search. While we encourage the current discussion about how news can thrive in a digital world, there have been a number of assertions made by News Media Canada’s report which are either unfounded or incorrect. And we’d like to set the record straight.
The disruption of the newspaper business model was not caused by Google.
The emergence of the Internet, not Google, disrupted the news industry. Decades ago, non-news content like classifieds, fashion and lifestyle content accounted for the lion's share of legacy media’s revenue. Classifieds alone accounted for roughly 30%. But the Internet introduced new websites and services which pulled audiences away from newspapers and this impacted their revenue. The Internet changed our behaviours and it changed the business model of publishers well before Google was founded, making it more difficult to earn revenue from just news alone. This was the evolution of the marketplace for information, and not due to any one company.
Digital advertising dollars are not controlled by Google.
Google does not set ad prices. Advertising rates are driven by real-time auctions run by many different companies that allow the market to establish appropriate pricing. Businesses ultimately set the amount they are willing to pay for an ad. This has been a boon to small businesses who historically could not afford print advertising. Last year alone, Google’s search and advertising products helped generate $23 billion in annual economic activity for over 500,000 businesses in Canada - the equivalent of 1.1 percent of Canada’s entire GDP.
Our advertising platforms allow publishers of all sizes to make money online.
News Media Canada claims that as much as half of the revenue from display advertising is kept by advertising technology providers. We can't speak for the many other companies in this space, but that is not the case for Google. Even when marketers and publishers choose to use our advertising tools, publishers receive most of the money. In fact in 2019, when advertisers used our products to buy ads programmatically from publishers on Google Ad Manager, publishers kept over 69% of the revenue. And publishers keep even more of the revenue when they sell directly to advertisers using our platform.
Google is not stealing news publishers’ content.
News Media Canada has accused us of “stealing” news content, but how Google Search connects people with news articles is no different than the way we connect you to any other website online. We don't provide the content, just a link and sometimes a small extract of the article to give users a preview. And news organizations can opt-out of being included, keep the links but remove the previews, and more. This is how other search engines and the Internet at large works. While publishers receive traffic from many different sources, we sent more than 5 billion visits to Canadian news publishers last year - at no charge - helping publishers make money by showing their own ads to those visitors or converting people into new paying subscribers. This traffic drove an estimated $500 million worth of value.
News Media Canada’s proposal would undermine Google Search for Canadians.
To maintain the trust of our users, we make many changes to our algorithms to address security issues and defend against bad actors who try to “game” Google Search rankings. News Media Canada is proposing that Google give news publishers a sneak peak of changes to our algorithm, thus enabling them to influence our search results to secure preferred placement of links to their content regardless of what our users want. We don’t do this for anyone. Their proposal also would slow the rollout of important security updates to products because we’d have to provide publishers with 28 days’ notice of algorithm changes - putting the security and integrity of Search at risk. News Media Canada’s demands would give them an unfair advantage over every other site on the Internet and undermine trust in Google Search.
Google supports publisher diversity -- big, small, old and new.
We build products to highlight local content and original reporting. We send traffic to more than 2,000 Canadian news sites. We offer tools like Subscribe with Google to better enable subscription sales. We launched the Google News Initiative where we have trained over 1,000 Canadian journalists on how to adapt to the digital age. In addition, we’ve launched a $1 billion news funding program which will license content directly from publishers around the world.
Google believes there is a way forward.
While some legacy media have struggled because they have been slow to adapt their businesses to the Internet economy, other publishers are leading with innovation. The Globe & Mail is a global leader in digital journalism, sweeping industry awards with a thriving and growing digital news offering. Village Media is a digital-only news publisher, reinventing local news, operating dozens of profitable sites across Canada to become a popular news source for Canadian communities. No, the news business is not the same as it was decades ago. Innovative Canadians are making it better.
We remain focused on achieving a solution that is fair to all, that protects the way Search works for the millions of Canadians and local businesses who use it every day. We will continue to build innovative partnerships and drive towards sustainable solutions with publishers. We are optimistic about the future and inspired by innovation in Canadian journalism. We will continue to work together towards a proud future for Canadian journalism.