The New York Times has done free public relations for Google


The New York Times Sunday published an article that placed a dollar amount on a central question that is now of concern to the information sector: how much did Big Tech exploit us?

The answer to how much Google has done last year's work of the news editors, wrote Time Marc Tracy, a media reporter, reports $ 4.7 billion – "more than the combined ticket sales of the last two" Avengers "movies."

The astounding figure – $ 4.7 billion! – ricocheted around Twitter and will surely become a media rallying cry often quoted against Facebook and Google. It was also quickly torn to shreds. As critics highlightedThe issue, published in a study by the media industry's News Media Alliance (NMA) media group, is a classic example of public relations. It is a fragile but frightening figure intended to emphasize the real phenomenon of the domination of Google. Even the Times' description of the methodology, throughout the 12th paragraph, reads as if it does not buy it:

The new media alliance is based in part on a study by Keystone Strategy, a consulting firm in economics. Keystone Strategy is based on a statistic released in 2008, when a Google executive estimated that Google News reported $ 100 million. The study also noted the company's revenues that have since risen, among other factors.

A report extrapolated from a statistic based on an estimate of more than ten years ago … among other factors. the Time, of course, should know better than to write with so much credibility a whole story around a study funded by his own sector. Google m said "These calculations on the back of the envelope are inaccurate" and it is difficult to discuss with them. For Google, the information does not represent $ 4.7 billion. It's priceless!

As digital information publishers cling to life, the study presents an emotional truth. For years, media companies have understood the unwanted intermediary role of Google search and news. The argument is that society plays no role in media production, but benefits from the sustained efforts of publishers. Not to mention the arms race with Facebook has created a digital "duopoly" engulfing almost the entire digital advertising economy. This is an important story in which we suspect $ 4.7 billion in backdrop to boost water in favor of Google.

the Time incidentally spoiled an opportunity to explain how these figures are made. Reporters from all fields, from politics to business, health and sports, deal with professional groups defending the interests of members who pay dues. These organizations are very successful in the press, partly because their representatives are really useful to journalists. Insiders from professional groups know what's happening in the industry, organize events where reporters can meet key sources and function as media-savvy synthesizers, making it a quick and lucid quote.

A lay reader of the Time may wonder why they see this particular story in the newspaper. In addition, the trade groups also sponsor research with a convincing conclusion, which they then present exclusively to a leading journalist. This research infiltrates the circulation of the media and explains how we speak of a problem. "The information industry has been asking for these numbers for years," the NMA said in a statement to Contour. "It's up to Google to be transparent about its news revenue."

In The Times story, we find out why this week we're learning more about Google's $ 4.7 billion story:

The News Media Alliance publishes the study before holding a House Subcommittee hearing Tuesday on the interrelation between major technology companies and the media.

A member of Congress will certainly now raise the issue of the $ 4.7 billion audience figure, citing this Times report. Indeed, the NMA has been behind a media effort supported by many publishers: allowing the industry to collectively bargain against Facebook and Google.

Congress granted a waiver to the media industry, which gave it an exemption for "collusion" and negotiation, still represented a long-term project, but after the Democrats took control of the House, the measure had come back to life. Hatred technological platforms is one of the few bipartisan issues in Washington today. (Anyway, unionized media workers will be relieved to learn that their leaders actually think that collective bargaining can result in a fairer bargain for the little guy).

"The story is fair and precise", Time spokesman said in a statement. "It became clear that the $ 4.7 billion figure is the result of a study by News Media Alliance, a non-profit organization. We call the $ 4.7 billion estimate and we made sure to explain to our readers how that group calculated that number. We also reveal early and explicitly the relationship between Time and the alliance. "

In the third paragraph of his story, the Time makes the important disclosure that he is actually a member of the NMA, which is the leading trade organization representing the US press industry (the group changed its name from the Newspaper Association of America in 2016) . Formerly a relatively sleepy organization, the NMA has been shaken in recent years by its CEO, David Chavern, a veteran advocate who joined the group in 2015 after a decade at the American Chamber of Commerce. Chavern led a renewed and impressive charge on several fronts in Washington. The NMA, for example, has successfully lobbied to cancel a Trump tariff on Canadian newsprint that would have hurt regional American newspapers. But the main problem for any media leader, and therefore his professional group, is the long war against Facebook and Google.

In days of glory, when American newspapers printed money, the industry did not really need a ton of commercial advocacy in Washington. Today, of course, it is another story. We are in an environment in which the Democratic candidates of 2020 are trying to separate to dissolve Big Tech and Mark Zuckerberg invites the regulators. In the media industry, a chorus agreed that it was time to take action.

There is no need for a conflict of interest here for the Time, who is perfectly capable of offering this kind of context on the behind-the-scenes operation of his own lobbyists. But as technology platforms continue to soak up the news, publishers should probably remember that by not holding Google accountable for its activities, it might allow Google to keep the power of the industry longer, forever.

Steven Perlberg is a freelance journalist in Berlin.


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