Facebook vs publishers | Jonathan Baekdal

I find the whole Australian link tax to be silly and a rare instance where I'm very much on the side of Big Tech, but Thomas has done a much better job of explaining why it's all a farce than I ever could.

It's particularly fascinating given that he's an "insider" in the industry, but one whose business would be hurt by the proposed laws. Link taxes help old media, but hurt their new competition. They also reward old media for having an incompetent digital model and for failing to invest in their own services.

As Jonathan notes, newspapers have never been analogous to search engines. You don't open a broadsheet to find where you can buy a car or to locate extremely specific information. Any traffic directed from these kinds of searches is therefore new.

The newspapers did not help this car dealer sell any cars. You provided no leads, no sale, no nothing. Why should you get a cut of the money brands are paying to Google?

On why Google is not stealing traffic, but providing it (in most cases):

And then the newspapers have the audacity to tell the politicians that "Google is stealing our traffic and our links". No they are not. This traffic wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for Google. This is new traffic that Google makes possible for us.

On the traditional advertising model used by magazines and publishers; get people to consume as many adverts as possible on their way to the content:

For instance, many years ago, I did a study about what was actually in a print magazine, and here is what Vogue Magazine looked like in 2009:
Graph of page use in an edition of Vogue magazine from 1996. The first article was on page 75 out of roughly 330 total. The first 50 pages are almost all adverts; the next 100 are an even mixture of ads and articles; followed by a final third which is mainly photography and almost no ads.
So out of a 300+ page magazine, you're getting maybe 70 pages of actual written content?

On the benefits of amplification, which would be impossible without freely shareable links:

Amplification is good because it drives extra traffic that you would otherwise not get if Facebook didn't exist.

On why publishers are cutting their nose off to spite their face when targeting Facebook:

If you force Facebook to pay you, as a publisher you are even more incentivized to push things to Facebook, while Facebook is incentivized to reduce your amplification rate. This is the opposite of what you want.

Why would you ever do that?

As a newspaper, you should be incentivized to create a direct relationship with your audience, while Facebook should be incentivized to give you as much extra traffic as possible. Paying for links does not do that!

On why it isn't as simple as forcing companies to pay taxes in every country they operate in (hint: you're getting them to pay taxes multiple times for the same service, and you're potentially taking taxes without having any citizens involved):

So this is far more complicated than the media makes it out to be, and the suggestions I have seen from the media are all nationalistic. They punish companies for being global
So the way publishers talk about taxing Google is basically saying Google should be taxed twice.
But you are still suggesting a model that doesn't work and that punishes companies for reaching people across the world.

This is nationalism. It has no place in a connected world.

On why traditional analytics models are simply not fit for purpose; the models that publishers want no longer fit the world they have:

So, let me ask you a question. Imagine if someone visits your newspaper and reads three pages (including the front page). And then imagine that someone visits you via Facebook, only sees one page per visit, but comes back four times.

Which one is better?

On the fact that link taxes hurt small publishers, digital media, and independent journalists by starving them of amplification and audience:

One thing that many people in traditional media don't seem to understand is that the link is the single most important thing that we have, and
this is especially true for smaller independent publishers (like me
It's not Facebook who is undermining democracy. It's Murdoch and every single newspaper who has joined his destruction of linking.

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  • I find the whole Australian link tax to be silly and a rare instance where I'm very much on the side of Big Tech, but Thomas has done a much better job of explaining why it's all a farce than I […]
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