Dinsmore: Industry’s ‘Broken Relationship’ With Tech Platforms Must Be Fixed

The news media industry’s “broken relationship” with the tech platforms must be fixed to ensure a healthy future for trusted, verified news, News Media Association vice chairman David Dinsmore has said. 

Speaking at Press Gazette’s Digital Journalism Summit, News UK’s chief operating officer was among the news media publishers to highlight the urgent need to ensure news media publishers are fairly rewarded for their investment in quality journalism.  

Also speaking at the conference last week, Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker said Google and Facebook had been “free riding” off the journalism content produced by news media publishers who received “a few crumbs off the table.” 

Delivering the introductory speech, Mr Dinsmore said: “Newsgatherers are spending nearly all the money digging up the news. News is the vital component that makes people really engage with social media. The social media platforms are then extracting nearly all the revenue from that news on their platforms.

“This is not a complaint, it’s statement of reality. The terrifying prospect of not sorting out this broken relationship is a world where edited, verified news simply ceases to exist unless it is funded by the state. In other words, we’ll be left with the BBC and a network of bloggers so small they are able to live unregulated and largely outside the rule of law.

“But it will also mean the verified news fuel for the platforms will also disappear and put at risk the rivers of gold currently flowing their way.”

David spoke about the huge reach and popularity enjoyed by national and local news brands and their ability to make an impact through agenda-setting campaigning and investigative journalism. But publishers’ ad revenues were declining.  

David highlighted three key statistics to summarise the imbalance between the news media publishers’ investment in journalistic content and the commercial rewards in the digital environment.  

He said: “Number one, news brands account for two thirds of total spend on news provision in the UK. Every day the UK’s newspapers, digital and print, can be counted on to provide the core of the country’s democratic conversation.

“Secondly, a study by the NMA of Newswhip data published earlier this month found that 47 per cent of all engagements – likes, shares, retweets etc –  with UK websites on social media over the past year sourced content from UK news brands and that doesn’t include things like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed. In other words, news is the fuel that makes the social world go round.

“Thirdly, 54 pence in every pound spent on digital advertising in the UK will, according to eMarketer, go to either Facebook or Google.” 

David concluded: “We have arrived at a moment in time, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that where we go from here will shape our democracy and society. We will either forge a genuine, mutually beneficial partnership between newsgatherers and platforms or we will watch as the news becomes ever more fake and public faith in democracy collapses.” 

In the panel session ‘Online advertising. Is the system broken and how can we fix it?’, Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker talked about 1XL which now reaches 24 million users in the UK a month through 800 local news brands. “When you combine print with that online audience you are almost getting total market penetration,” he added.

Talking about the news media industry’s relationship with the platforms, Henry said: “The nice people from Google and Facebook will tell us a lot in the later session about how they are doing a lot in terms of the Digital News Initiative and investing a lot in supporting publishers but I think frankly it’s window dressing until they deal with the core issue which is the economic problem.

“And the economic problem is that they have been for a number of years now free riding professional journalism content the publishers produce, gleaning lots of great data insights on top of that free content, got lots of good tools for optimising for advertisers that content, and if we’re lucky we get a few crumbs off the table. 

“I think there needs to be a serious conversation and Google and Facebook really need much more to come to the table about the economic problem. Otherwise, as David said right at the beginning, we aren’t going to have the newspapers or the diversity of newspapers in the future that we enjoy now.” 

He added: “I think if they don’t do something the government will regulate against them and I think that would be a good thing.”

In the same session, Guardian News and Media director of programmatic Daniel Spears explained that ad fraud was causing huge losses through the digital advertising supply chain, which publishers needed greater control of, and that ad buyers needed to focus more on the context in which ads appear.   

Talking about the publisher’s relationship with the platforms, Daniel said: “We have a pretty negative perception of Facebook and our view is that they are solely interested in chasing audiences and actually our content is a small part of that machine. We don’t publish to Instant Articles and we have concerns over Facebook.”

Daniel concluded: “Publishers need greater control over their supply chain and I think that’s where we need to be careful around who we work with and on what basis.”