Google, Facebook pledged millions for local news. Was it enough?

In the US alone, digital and print ad revenue for newspapers fell to $14.3 billion in 2018 from $49.4 billion in 2005. (File/AFP).
In the US alone, digital and print ad revenue for newspapers fell to $14.3 billion in 2018 from $49.4 billion in 2005. (File/AFP).
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Updated 10 June 2021

Google, Facebook pledged millions for local news. Was it enough?

In the US alone, digital and print ad revenue for newspapers fell to $14.3 billion in 2018 from $49.4 billion in 2005. (File/AFP).
  • Google and Facebook pledged $600 million to support news outlets globally.
  • Analysts indicate that this sum does not begin to compensate for the tens of billions of dollars publishers lost as tech companies dominated the market.

Facing regulatory and political pressure, Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google in recent years committed a combined $600 million to support news outlets globally — many of them local or regional enterprises foundering in a digital age.

Thousands of media outlets received financial and other support for everything from fact checking and reporting to training, according to the tech giants’ announcements. Some publishers express gratitude for contributions they say are essential as advertising revenue has plunged.

But several media analysts and news business executives told Reuters that the funding — set to last three years — does not nearly compensate for the tens of billions of dollars publishers lost as the tech companies gobbled up the digital advertising market. Google and Facebook accounted for 54 percent of US digital advertising revenue in 2020, according to eMarketer, a market research company.

Some critics dismissed the projects, including contributions of $300 million from each company, as a way to blunt complaints from publishers and generate good PR. Both tech companies face battles over compensation for news content worldwide, as well as antitrust lawsuits from regulators and publishers.

This “occasional benevolence” is “a drop in the bucket,” said Maribel Perez Wadsworth, publisher of Gannett’s USA Today and president of USA Today Network, which participates in a fact-checking program sponsored by Facebook. “News publishers are not looking for charity. We’re simply requesting a fair shot and a level playing field.”

Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, said the money is vital to newsrooms in the short-term. “But they’re not given at a level which really has a lasting effect on the field, and it isn’t really changing anything.”

The tech giants told Reuters that they are genuinely committed to helping local and regional outlets, and both will continue to offer support after the $600 million initiatives expire in coming months.

The goal of the Facebook Journalism Project, as it is known, is to help publishers “effectively transition to and prosper in today’s digital world where they have to find a very specific audience in order to be successful,” said Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook.

READ THE LATEST ARAB NEWS RESEARCH & STUDIES UNIT REPORT “FUTURE OF MEDIA: MYTH OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION.”

Google is “oriented around making sure that there’s a healthy and vibrant ecosystem of quality journalism,” said Ben Monnie, the company’s director of global partnerships.

Reuters participates in initiatives funded by both Google and Facebook. Under the Facebook Journalism Project, for instance, Reuters received funding to develop a digital media training course for journalists. Neither Facebook nor Reuters would disclose the amount of money allocated.

Both Facebook and Google have made contributions to the news industry apart from the $600 million. For instance, the companies dedicated $1 billion each last year in grants and deals to pay a range of media worldwide for content. As part of that commitment, Google pays publishers such as Reuters to create and curate content for its News Showcase — snippets for its News and Discover apps.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, which is largely funded by the corporate foundation of Thomson Reuters, announced in 2020 that it received about $19 million in grants from Google and $4 million from Facebook.

Both Facebook and Google say publishers benefit just from using their platforms, which deliver traffic that helps drive advertising revenue and subscriptions.

“We are a free service that is available to anyone to post content,” Brown said. Publishers’ participation “suggests they are getting value from the platform without us making these additional investments.”

WHERE DID THE MONEY GO?

Facebook, a social media goliath, and Google, by far the world’s most popular search engine, generated $607 billion in advertising revenue during the last three years, according to company filings. The companies are among the biggest corporate funders of the global news industry.

The two platforms have released limited information so far about how the $600 million in grants and services has been spent, often offering broad descriptions or examples without financial details.

Google has publicly identified buckets of spending worth about $198 million — including $81 million aimed at “elevating quality journalism” such as training on how to use Google products in reporting. The company, which said it expects to spend the full $300 million by year’s end, lists over 6,250 “news partners” in the project, ranging from the Associated Press and BuzzFeed News to the Cook Islands News in the South Pacific.

Facebook has said that its $300 million has been fully spent, more than half of it in support of local news. The company’s public announcements account for $80.3 million, a quarter of which went to a program that helps local newsrooms attract more digital subscribers. A company spokesperson, Adam Isserlis, said the project also includes proprietary deals with publishers, the details of which are confidential.

Several news executives said they are prodding the tech giants to pay more for content and to further prioritize original reporting. Facebook and Google say they have already changed their algorithms to do just that.

Meanwhile, some publishers see a lifeline. An executive at the Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, said a Google-funded training “lab” helped the paper determine the volume and price of digital subscribers that would cover expenses.

At Cityside, a nonprofit in Oakland, California, co-founder Lance Knobel said he used $1.56 million from Google to help launch and support an online local news website, Oaklandside.

“I honestly think their big interest is that they want a healthy news environment,” he said.

FRIEND AND FOE

Other publishers are dissatisfied or ambivalent, viewing the tech goliaths as both friend and foe.

The companies have a huge impact on outlets’ advertising revenues because their algorithms determine whether an article shows up prominently in a Google search or on Facebook’s news feed.

Google runs one of the largest online advertising exchanges for digital ads that are bought and sold automatically via software programs. Since Google competes as both the biggest buyer and seller on that exchange, it can steer business to itself, some publishers and other critics have alleged.

In the United States alone, digital and print ad revenue for newspapers fell to $14.3 billion in 2018 from $49.4 billion in 2005.

On June 7, under a settlement with France’s antitrust watchdog, Google agreed to share more data with ad buyers broadly — therefore reducing some of its competitive advantage over publishers.

Google and Facebook face other legal challenges. The Nation, a progressive US news website, and West Virginia-based newspaper company HD Media are among publishers to file antitrust lawsuits against one or both tech giants in recent months. US authorities have filed antitrust suits against both as well, and some states have accused Google of unlawfully dominating the process of placing ads online.

In responses to some of the suits, the companies dismissed claims that their business practices hurt publishers. Google said people use the company because they choose to, not because they’re forced to.

Frank Blethen sees things differently.

The Seattle Times publisher said his paper has participated in programs backed by Google and Facebook. But “if they hadn’t monopolized advertising and gamed search the way they have, newspapers would still be making money,” he said.


Biden caught insulting Fox News journalist

Biden caught insulting Fox News journalist
Updated 25 January 2022

Biden caught insulting Fox News journalist

Biden caught insulting Fox News journalist

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden was caught on a live microphone Monday calling a Fox News journalist a “stupid son of a bitch” on the sidelines of a White House photo op.
As journalists were leaving the room after the event, a reporter from Fox News, the favorite channel of conservatives, asked whether inflation is a political liability.
The Democratic leader, possibly unaware that his microphone was still on, began by deadpanning: “It’s a great asset. More inflation.”
And then muttered, “What a stupid son of a bitch,” before glancing briefly down.
A pool reporter who was in the room at the time admitted to not being able to hear what Biden actually said over the noise.
But he added that he would “direct your attention to video of the event if you are curious how the president really feels about being asked about inflation from Fox’s Peter Doocy.”
Doocy shrugged the insult off in a later interview on Fox.
“Yeah nobody has fact-checked him yet and said it’s not true,” he said, nonchalantly.


Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace

Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace
Updated 24 January 2022

Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace

Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace
  • Update aims to ease communication between businesses, front-line workers

DUBAI: Meta will launch the integration of WhatsApp with its Workplace platform, with the aim of easing communication between business and employee, especially front-line workers.

The new update, which will release later this year, will allow companies to share posts from Workplace over WhatsApp. The announcement comes on the back of a research report, “Deskless Not Voiceless,” which surveyed 7,000 front-line workers and 1,350 C-suite executives in seven countries.

An overwhelming 94 percent of C-suite executives said that they need to start prioritizing front-line tech in the way that they have historically prioritized office and desk-based technology.

Almost half (45 percent) of front-line workers said that they feel disconnected from their company’s headquarters. Moreover, 75 percent do not completely trust their employers to be transparent about company news and updates.

“At Workplace, we strongly believe that the most successful organizations empower their front-line employees to make a difference and listen to their ideas. So it’s disappointing to see there’s still a clear disconnect between the front line and HQ in 2021,” said Ujjwal Singh, Workplace head of product.

“Our integration with WhatsApp is designed to help fix that,” he added.

Virgin Atlantic and AstraZeneca both use Workplace to stay connected with employees.

“Our front-line teams — whether on the ground or in the skies — are constantly on the move; Workplace allows them to remain connected to Virgin Atlantic, wherever they are in the world and whenever suits them,” said Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic.

AstraZeneca started using Workplace as a test for its global manufacturing and supply teams in 2017 and rolled it out across the entire company by 2018. Today, 70,000 employees in 10 countries use the platform as a way to stay in touch and share ideas.

For example, the company held an event on Workplace, which saw employees submit 56,000 ideas in two weeks, and another event designed to understand lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in 24,000 ideas being shared.

“Workplace has been key to AstraZeneca’s high employee engagement rates by helping us drive tangible change and adjust to the changing nature of how we all work,” said Alun Metford, head of internal communications at AstraZeneca.

“It will play a central role as we adjust to the next normal,” he added.


BBC Arabic accused of withholding guest pay for 2 years

BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year. (Screenshot)
BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year. (Screenshot)
Updated 23 January 2022

BBC Arabic accused of withholding guest pay for 2 years

BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year. (Screenshot)
  • “The important matter I want to discuss now is that BBC Arabic hasn’t paid us any dues for two years,” Political analyst Mehdi Eliefifi said

LONDON: BBC Arabic was accused last week of not paying its contributors for two years after one of its guests cut a live interview to raise the issue.

Political analyst Mehdi Eliefifi was invited to speak on a BBC Arabic newscast about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict when he cut his commentary in order to raise the failed payments issue.

“The important matter I want to discuss now is that BBC Arabic hasn’t paid us any dues for two years,” he said, in reference to analysts appearing on the channel’s program.

He then held a piece of paper in front of the camera, on which the names of the channel’s officials were written in English and Arabic, as well as the question “where are my financial dues that haven’t been paid for two years?”

BBC Arabic issued a statement to Arab News and on Twitter, saying: “To clarify the issue of the symbolic payments owed to some of the BBC’s guests, we conducted further investigations and we are aware of a technical defect in the payment mechanism within the institution, which led to the delay in the dues of some guests.

“Therefore, we apologize for the delay to all those affected by this matter and assure that we are working hard to solve this case as soon as possible.”

The BBC’s English-language service declined to comment on the matter while it “looked into the technical issue.”

BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year, when an investigation by The Jewish Chronicle titled “Shame of BBC Arabic as systematic bias revealed,” highlighted the Arabic-language news channel’s consistent use of antisemitic and “Hamas-inspired language.”

However, a BBC spokesperson strongly rejected claims of compromised impartiality and said: “BBC Arabic shares exactly the same principles of accuracy and impartiality as BBC News in English.”


Turkish court orders imprisonment of journalist Sadaf Kabas for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Kabas, who was taken into custody as part of an investigation launched against her on the charge of insulting the President, was referred to the court for processing. (Anadolu)
Kabas, who was taken into custody as part of an investigation launched against her on the charge of insulting the President, was referred to the court for processing. (Anadolu)
Updated 23 January 2022

Turkish court orders imprisonment of journalist Sadaf Kabas for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Kabas, who was taken into custody as part of an investigation launched against her on the charge of insulting the President, was referred to the court for processing. (Anadolu)
  • The law on insulting the president carries a jail sentence of between one and four years

ANKARA: A Turkish court on Saturday ordered well-known journalist Sedef Kabas to be jailed pending trial on a charge of insulting President Tayyip Erdogan, CNN Turk said, targeting her with a law under which tens of thousands have been prosecuted.

Police detained Kabas at around 2 a.m. (2300 GMT) and took her first to Istanbul's main police station before transferring her to the city's main courthouse, where a court subsequently ruled in favour of her formal arrest, the broadcaster said.

The alleged insult was in the form of a palace-related proverb that Kabas expressed both on an opposition television channel and on her Twitter account, drawing condemnation from government officials.

"The honor of the presidency's office is the honor of our country... I condemn the vulgar insults made against our president and his office," Fahrettin Altun, head of Turkey's Communications Directorate, wrote on Twitter.

Merdan Yanardag, chief editor of the Tele 1 channel on which Kabas made the comment, sharply criticised her arrest.

"Her detention overnight at 2 a.m. because of a proverb is unacceptable," he wrote on Twitter. "This stance is an attempt to intimidate journalists, the media and society."

The law on insulting the president carries a jail sentence of between one and four years.

Last October, Europe's top human rights court called on Turkey to change the legislation after ruling that a man's detention under the law violated his freedom of expression.

Thousands have been charged and sentenced over the crime of insulting Erdogan in the seven years since he moved from being prime minister to president.

In 2020, 31,297 investigation were launched in relation to the charge, 7,790 cases were filed and 3,325 resulted in convictions, according to Justice Ministry data. Those numbers were slightly lower than the previous year.

Since 2014, the year Erdogan became president, 160,169 investigations were launched over insulting the president, 35,507 cases were filed and there were 12,881 convictions.


MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel
Updated 22 January 2022

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel
  • MSNBC and Peacock TV host discusses why paying attention to “smaller” stories between Israel and Palestine explains the wider conflict

DUBAI: MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohyeldin repeatedly condemned the mainstream media bias towards Israel, saying “the media only pays attention when war breaks out between Israel and Hamas.”

During his segment on Peacock TV, Mohyeldin discussed a number of "small" stories that went under the radar including the American citizen who was found dead after being held in Israeli custody and the anti-occupation activist killed after being struck by an Israeli police truck.

Last week, a prominent activist named Suleiman al-Hathaleen from the South Hebron Hills was hit by a police tow truck after blocking its path, dying a few days later after succumbing to his wounds.

Meanwhile, an elderly Palestinian American named Omar Assad Majid this month died shortly after being detained by Israeli forces. Reports suggest he died of a heart attack while in handcuffs.

Mohyedldin demanded an investigation of his treatment, blasting the US’ mild response to the matter after it said it was seeking “clarification” from Israeli authorities.

“If this would have happened in the UK, is that all we would have said? That we're seeking clarification?” he wondered aloud.

Finally, Mohyeldin touched on the latest eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, where Israeli police destroyed this week a Palestinian family’s home that has been at the center of an anti-forced expulsion campaign in the town east of Jerusalem.

“If you want to understand why those larger conflicts erupt [between Israel and Hamas], you must first pay attention to these “smaller” stories that go under the radar,” he said.