It was a busy day Tuesday in Washington, D.C., as The Post and Courier joined other members of the News Media Alliance in meeting with members of the House and Senate to seek their support for the antitrust Safe Harbor bill.
Officially known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, the measure would provide a limited “safe harbor” for news publishers to collectively negotiate with tech platforms such as Facebook and Google for better business arrangements. Two similar bills have been introduced in the House and the Senate with bipartisan co-sponsors.
As technology has changed many things in our daily lives, it also has changed the way newspaper content is consumed. Newspapers have seen significant growth in online readership while print readership continues to decline.
But newspapers are struggling to compete with tech giants Google and Facebook, which have become the primary online distribution sources of news content without having to pay for it. And while online advertising revenues from Google and Facebook have soared with their ability to target newspaper readers and gather countless data, newspaper print revenues have sharply declined.
As more people access news online, the industry finds itself needing relief to negotiate with the tech giants. The Safe Harbor bill would allow newspapers to come together to negotiate with Google and Facebook with the goal of creating a sustainable future for the newspaper industry. Newspaper executives also want local journalism branded by the individuals creating the content and not just as a part of an online news feed that doesn’t allow the reader to know where the content was generated.
That is the message the group from the News Media Alliance took to Capitol Hill on Tuesday. In addition to The Post and Courier, the group that traveled to Washington included the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, Tribune Publishing Co., News Corp., the Star Tribune, Gannett and the Philadelphia Media Network.
The alliance also has challenged the algorithms used and often changed by the tech giants. The algorithms now dictate what news you see, and newspaper executives believe there must be more transparency for consumers.
There was a bit of good news in that regard Thursday. Google, under pressure from federal antitrust probes and the news media, announced it had changed its search algorithm to give an advantage to “original reporting” so readers can find the story that “started it all,” according to The New York Times. That is a good first step, but the proof will be in how the change is carried out.
To learn more and to follow the Safe Harbor bill, please go to newsmediaalliance.org.
P.J. Browning is the publisher of The Post and Courier.