The good news is that somebody is once again making money from journalism. The bad news is that it's not those who are doing the actual work of producing journalism; instead, it's Google and Facebook, which have figured out how to "monetize" the publication of news.
A recent report in a study for the News Media Alliance holds that Google made $4.7 billion from the work of news publishers in 2018 through advertising linked to its search engine results and its Google News page.
Journalists ought to see some of that revenue, argues David Chavern, the president and chief executive of the alliance, which represents 2,000 U.S. newspapers.
The tech companies "make money off the arrangement," Chavern said in the New York Times, "and there needs to be a better outcome for news publishers."
If independent journalism is going to survive--and continue to help communities, states and the nation sustain their democratic institutions--the work of journalists must be supported.
"News publishers need to continue to invest in quality journalism, and they can't do that if the platforms take what they want without paying for it. Information wants to be free, but reporters need to get paid," Chavern said in a release.
The problem facing media outlets--newspapers, especially--is a decline in revenue from subscriptions and advertising, a decline that has accelerated as media consumption has moved from print to online platforms. It's not that people have lost their appetite for trustworthy and valuable journalism; fewer are reading newspapers and magazines, but much of that former audience has shifted online, particularly to mobile devices.
Between 2006 and 2016, U.S. newspaper revenues fell 63 percent; from $49 billion to $18 billion, according to a 2017 report by the Pew Research Center. Even as overall circulation has fallen, Pew found, circulation revenue has shown moderate increases. The biggest losses have been in advertising revenue.
Where did much of that money go?
This is where Google, Facebook and even Amazon have been successful; the tech companies have the advantage of their millions of users and the personal data that users have obligingly provided. By using the data the tech companies have been able to target advertising, piggybacking it on the journalism that their users are increasingly looking for.
Google has denied the News Media Alliance's $4.7 billion figure, but the study notes Pew's findings that 93 percent in the United States get at least...