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Whose news is it anyway?

By Tara Deschamps, Special to the Star

Wed., Oct. 16, 2019

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.

Possible solutions:

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.


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