Discover more from Dave Busiek on Media
Don’t get used to reading news on Facebook
Meta balks at a "journalism usage fee"
If you’re used to seeing stories from your favorite local news outlet on Facebook or Instagram, you should be aware that convenience may soon go away.
Facebook/Instagram owner Meta this week threatened to remove news content in California if the legislature there approves a bill called the Journalism Preservation Act. The act would require big tech companies like Meta, Google and Twitter to pay a “journalism usage fee” to local newspapers, television and radio stations every time a local story is used on those big tech platforms. According to NPR, the bill’s sponsor argues it could provide a much-needed lifeline to local newsrooms suffering from declining revenue, which results in laying off journalists, closing newsrooms, and less coverage for local communities. The bill would require 70% of the proceeds from the usage fee to create or maintain journalism jobs.
Meta threatened this week to block all news content if the California legislature approves the bill. Meta said in a statement that the California bill “fails to recognize that publishers and broadcasters put their content on our platform themselves and that substantial consolidation in California’s local news industry came over 15 years ago, well before Facebook was widely used.”
Facebook has become a double-edged sword for newspapers and broadcast newsrooms. At the TV station where I worked, we could track the source of readers coming to a story. We could see what percentage came directly from our mobile app or our website, what percentage came from Google, and how many came from Facebook. A sad fact is that Facebook often drove more than HALF of the traffic to a story. A controversial story, generating a lot of comments on Facebook, would drive even more traffic to our website. And that’s a good thing, because more pageviews means more ads that can be sold, which generates more revenue to continue paying all those reporters to cover news.
Dave Busiek on Media is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Proceeds are donated to the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and meetings. Thank you!
On the other hand, Facebook has benefited from using all that local content from local stations and newspapers, and it hasn’t paid a dime for any of it. I talk to people who don’t watch local news and don’t subscribe to the newspaper, yet they’re well-informed on the issues of the day because of the news content they consume in their social feed. That brings eyeballs to Facebook so Meta can sell ads to those eyeballs and keep ALL the revenue.
Local news stories are usually copyrighted. We would never let anyone else use our content and sell ads off of it and keep all the revenue. It costs money to generate local content – reporters, photographers, equipment and infrastructure. Facebook gets all the benefit and doesn’t pay for any of it.
By the same token, if journalists don’t put stories on Facebook and Twitter, fewer people know those stories exist. So, it’s damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t.
The Journalism Preservation Act is an attempt to bring some equity to the situation. Force Facebook and other aggregators to pay a reasonable fee and help keep newsrooms open. Whether this bill is the right mix or not, I am not sure. But with local newsrooms closing around the country, I’m glad California is at least trying to find an acceptable solution.
My last column was about some auto manufacturers removing AM radios from new vehicles. Complaints from consumers and members of Congress had an impact. Ford reversed course last week and announced that it will continue putting AM into new vehicles. Other car makers though, have not announced any changes. Those mostly are making electric vehicles, which causes interference with AM radios.
A political thought or two…
I read way too much political news. I should get a life. But a couple of observations that have nothing to do with media issues:
-When checking to see how Iowa’s four Republican members of the US House voted on the debt ceiling bill, I was surprised to see they all supported Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s negotiated deal. Then I noticed that New York representative George Santos, who has been protected by McCarthy at every turn, voted no! How’s that for gratitude? Santos, who told lie after lie to win election, continues now in his sixth month in the US House. It is an outrage.
-I’ve followed the impeachment of Texas attorney general Ken Paxton with some glee because he has gotten away with shady politics for far too long. What’s outrageous is that his wife is a member of the Texas senate, which will decide whether to convict Paxton on the impeachment charges. She hasn’t said whether she will recuse herself. She needs to. The senate is acting as a jury in this impeachment trial, and there is no way an accused person’s spouse should serve on any jury. Texas has only 31 state senators and it requires a two-thirds vote to convict. It’s not hard to imagine a narrow margin where she could be the deciding vote.
I’m proud to be part of the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative. This week, I’ll highlight two columns. Art Cullen in Storm Lake writes a wonderful letter to his about-to-be-married son. And, our newest member, Wini Moranville, who writes about food, has some thoughts on tipping.