With a series that launched Tuesday, the Star looks more closely at a new report by the International News Media Association: How to Decode the Publisher-Platform Relationship identifies seven issues as the most concerning to publishers in the digital age. Today, copyright and news aggregation.
Musicians and video producers have copyright over their work, but in many countries, news publications are not afforded the same protections for their articles. That’s allowed websites that aggregate original reporting from other publications to pop up. These websites often trick readers because they are sometimes designed to dupe the public into believing they are run by the credible publications they aggregate reporting from. These misleading websites don’t pay for the news they repurpose, but they often find ways to monetize that content and don’t share their profits.
Google News, Apple News, Amazon Echo, or Facebook news feeds exacerbate the situation because some are set up so that when readers click on articles, they are kept within the platform’s site. “Google News does take readers to the publisher’s network, but bypasses the showcase, money-making home page, which undercuts brand presence,” the International News Media Association (INMA) report says. “Taking the reader off the publisher’s network entirely by Apple and Facebook also denies the media company the usage data.” It also causes “brand flattening” — minimizing the connection and value between a story and the publication that produced it.
- Platforms pay for use of text intellectual property.
“We need a system whereby the platforms that benefit so much from the engagement driven by news return value to the people who create that content,” said David Chavern, a chief executive at the News Media Alliance, a trade association representing approximately 2,000 newspapers in the United States and Canada, in the INMA report. “This isn’t to say that all news is equally valuable — and we aren’t anticipating a collective effort to set prices for specific content — but the platforms’ unique unwillingness to pay news publishers has to end.”
To protect the intellectual property of publications, INMA believes digital platforms should pay to use text-based news stories — a change that will require new legislation. The European Union has already supported such a measure through a publishers’ right directive, which was recently passed by all of its member states. The directive does not cover links shared on social platforms, but includes summaries or substantial passages of stories.
INMA also suggested tech giants should adopt content licensing deals like the one Facebook has recently offered large U.S. publishers in exchange for permission to use headlines and previews of stories on their platform. INMA looks somewhat favourably at the subscription revenue share model championed by Apple News+, where consumers pay $12.99 a month for access to content from hundreds of publications. Publishers split about half the money Apple makes from subscribers based on how much of their content is consumed.
- Platforms pay for use of audio intellectual property.
Unlike news articles, from which publishers can earn ad dollars, it is much more difficult to monetize audio news clips, especially because, says INMA, publishers have already been asked to provide snippets of their content to digital platforms — for free.
The rise of smart home speakers like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo and Alexa have led INMA to feel copyright protections are needed for text news that is read aloud. It points to music industry “carriage fees” — payments to artists based on how much of and the number of times a piece is played — as a potential solution. INMA says regulators would need to approve such fees before they could be enacted.
- Remove platform ecosystem trap on news.
Most digital platforms that aggregate news create a “trap,” which keeps readers from being sent to a publisher’s site when they click on a story. Apple News, for example, touts that it provides news readers can trust “all in one place,” but INMA says, “that place is Apple and it’s hard to escape or monetize even if you log in as a subscriber to that news brand when prompted.” The platforms that readers are kept within often minimize a publication’s branding — if it’s even included at all — by shrinking logos and sometimes removing a publisher’s design schemes.
INMA prefers the Google News model, which avoids an “ecosystem trap” by taking a reader directly to a publisher’s site and allowing them to view ads and next article recommendations from the news organization.
- Platforms accept liability for distributing content.
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Digital platforms provide a variety of services that sometimes mirror offerings from publishers or telecommunications companies, but neither a publisher nor a telecommunications title fully encompasses what these platforms do.
INMA believes the platforms should be given their own classification as a “network distributor of content” and create a secondary legal liability for distribution of content. The liability would cover fabricated news and defamatory material — whether generated by the platform, users or advertisers — and would prevent publishers from being undermined. Also, under such liability provisions, if platforms want to aggregate news from publishers, they would be obliged to pay a fee, share agreed data, and allow readers to easily get to the publisher’s site.