The United States has just survived the last 4 years of an idiot president proclaiming that there is an alternate reality where journalism creates “fake news” and his misinformed ignorant ass was the true source of truth and wisdom.
Even our tech giants, figured out at the very end that Trump’s access to their platforms would lead to the end of the world as we know it- or at least Sodom and Gomorrah making a comeback. He’s banned from Twitter, Facebook and the alt-reality platforms like Parler and Gab even took hits.
Our democracy depends on a free and independent press- as the “Fourth Estate” to keep the other three- legislative, executive, and judicial branches in check. We also assume that the electorate is well informed and able to counteract abuses of power by our leaders due to the free and uncensored press. We mock other countries for their control of the media- yet, here we are, with tech giants, elected by no-one, deciding who has a platform and who doesn’t.
I was just put in Facebook “jail” for the first time- just prior to the inauguration until this morning- because I called for members of congress who were objecting to certifying the election results- to be tried and punished according to the 14th Amendment- which calls their actions treason, and the penalty- was to be shot. I could post to my wall- and on friends- but not to any groups- including the micro-group that’s created between seller and buyer on Marketplace (so I was unable to sell my 3 speedlights to someone who wanted to buy them). Thanks Facebook. Of course, it’s not a principle unless it costs you- so I lost $325 for my beliefs.
I grew up the son of a newspaper man. I own an ad agency. I do my own (unpaid) investigative citizen journalism on this blog. There are stories I’ve broken that I’m very proud of. I’ve invested my own money in producing videos, and writing, and even going to court to fight for what’s right. I don’t monetize this site- and even if I did- or could monetize my videos on Youtube (I still don’t have 1000 subscribers needed- go subscribe) I wouldn’t make enough to quit my day job (which I love btw). I say all this because it qualifies me to say this: Google is making billions by stealing other peoples work- and Australia has it exactly right- they need to pay for journalism- in the exact same way Google pays Youtubers /”influencers” for their work – for the click, for the watch, for the read. And, of course, since they watch every move we make- and use that info to send us personalized ads to make Alphabet (the parent company of Google, Youtube etc) zillions of dollars.
In Australia, they obviously elect smarter folks than we do- who actually understand what’s going on:
Google has threatened to remove its search engine from Australia over the nation’s attempt to make the tech giant share royalties with news publishers.
Australia is introducing a world-first law to make Google, Facebook and potentially other tech companies pay media outlets for their news content.
But the US firms have fought back, warning the law would make them withdraw some of their services.
Australian PM Scott Morrison said lawmakers would not yield to “threats”.
Australia is far from Google’s largest market, but the proposed news code is seen as a possible global test case for how governments could seek to regulate big tech firms.
Tech firms have faced increasing pressure to pay for news content in other countries, including France, where Google struck a landmark deal with media outlets on Thursday.
In Australia, the proposed news code would tie Google and Facebook to mediated negotiations with publishers over the value of news content, if no agreement could be reached first.
My father’s paycheck wasn’t made via subscriptions to the paper, or even so much by the big display ads that used to run in our nations newspapers- more than anything- his paycheck and the reporting we read was paid for by classified ads, obituaries and public records ads. Those pages of small text that now are reduced to just obituaries, court dockets/legal notices/bid notices etc where the “newspaper of record” charges by the line- and makes more money per page than any other part of the paper.
Craigslist was the first blow to classified ads- replacing all the help wanted/job ads, places for rent ads and personals with their free site. Later, Craigslist fired back- charging employers for posting and killing off the personals (which were supposedly used only by hookers – confession, my longest relationship was thanks to a Craigslist personal). Now, the tide is turning again- with job board sites charging a lot more- first Monster, then Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, Careerbuilder and Linkedin now fighting for their slice of the pie and making serious dough for large online companies- cutting out revenue from newspapers. Facebook isn’t out of the mix either- with their Marketplace and Dating app.
Paywalls are nice, and I pay for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and even the Dayton Daily News- to support their mission, but it’s not enough to support real journalism anymore. Newspapers across the company have cut staffs, shrunk their product and their coverage, and even limited the number of days they publish- all while Google and Facebook allow their content to feed their services with content for consumption. Used to be if you wanted to know what was in the NY Times you either subscribed, bought a copy, or went to a library- now- you just Google- and if you can’t make it past the paywall- you find someone else who “interpreted” or quoted (much like I did the BBC above) the story you are interested in.
Today, more than ever, the adage “information wants to be free” is true. And while Google is free to use- because they want to know what you think, what you are planning on doing- so that they can properly target ads- the revenue from those ads doesn’t go back to the content producer- except…. drumroll- on the second leading search engine- Youtube.
Youtube rewards content producers for making content that gets a lot of views. They are paid by either a fraction of the revenue generated from pre-roll and inserted ads, or from the fees generated by people who pay for Youtube Premium which cuts the ads out. This is the model that should be in place on Google- and not just for news sites- but every site. Google is a grifter now, taking other peoples creative output- and using it to make money for themselves. If there was no content for them to index (ie- we went back to paper and printing for everything) they’d be out of business. It’s for this reason- the idea of sharing all that ad revenue with the people that provide content for them to index not only seems fair- but just.
In case you are wondering about the great transfer of wealth which has lead to the greatest income inequality of all time, it’s the same hustle as it’s always been- just with a new set of clothes for the Emperor. Tim Cook at Apple didn’t invent the personal computer or the mac operating system or the iPhone or the iTunes store- but, he seems to think he’s entitled to great wealth just by not screwing it up too bad. Sergei Brin and Larry Page were lowly PhD candidates trying to get their doctorates when they invented Google- and had no idea how it would make them billionaires, and same goes for Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook- but, if it wasn’t them learning how to make you into their content producers and pimp what they learn about you to advertisers- they wouldn’t have two nickles to rub together.
We’ve allowed this to happen. We’ve created an entire economic ecosystem that serves very few masters and enslaves us all. We’ve come to depend on the internet for almost everything- and yet, what should belong to us all- instead is no different than all of us being turned into cotton picking slaves in the old south with rich masters.
I appreciate each and every one of you who have read this to the very end. And, if you did- and you found value in it- a donation would help keep this going. But, what would be even better, is if we had elected officials as smart as those in Australia who are calling bullshit on Google and trying to force some sanity back into an insane economy that steals from the working poor to make the rich richer.
Today, we had the first board meeting of The Modern Policy Institute- my 501(c)(3) (pending) that is going to try to solve the problems of the American political low voter information system and bring more informed and smarter politicians to the forefront in a way where we’re running actual ranked choice elections instead of auctions for public office. I ask you to wander over and subscribe. www.modernpolicy.org