The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal Are Coming Together to Fight Facebook and Google

2,000 publishers ask Congress for temporary antitrust exemption

Publishers take legal aim at Google and Facebook. Getty Images
Headshot of Lauren Johnson

As publishers continue to give Facebook and Google more ad dollars and control over distribution, a group of outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Tronc and smaller newspapers are banding together. The News Media Alliance—a trade organization that represents almost 2,000 publishers—plans to ask Congress for a limited antitrust exemption this week.

By asking for antitrust clearance, the NMA hopes to “permit publishers to have concrete discussions with the two dominant distributors of online news content, Google and Facebook, on business model solutions to secure the long-term availability of local journalism produced by America’s newsrooms,” the organization said in a blog post.

Such requests include a “fair share” of revenue and data, subscription models and protection for publishers’ intellectual property, wrote NMA CEO David Chavern in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal.

Even as Google and Facebook work with publishers to find new revenue streams and build content designed for their platforms like Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP) and Instant Articles, publishers still have a rocky relationship with both platforms as more content—including fake news—flows through them. EMarketer reports that Facebook and Google are poised to dominate digital’s $83 billion jump in revenue this year, with Facebook growing 32.1 percent and Google growing 14.8 percent.

“We want to help news publishers succeed as they transition to digital,” Google said in a statement. “In recent years we’ve built numerous specialized products and technologies, developed specifically to help distribute, fund, and support newspapers. This is a priority and we remain deeply committed to helping publishers with both their challenges, and their opportunities.”

Facebook did not respond to Adweek’s request for comment.

According to the NMA, existing media competition laws prohibit publishers from fairly negotiating with platforms at a large scale, which it hopes a temporary antitrust lift will address. Rival newspapers banding together is an intriguing move and indicative of Facebook and Google’s media clout.

“News organizations are limited with disaggregated negotiating power against a de facto duopoly that is vacuuming up all but an ever-decreasing segment of advertising revenue,” the NRM wrote in its blog post.

The NMA added that the duopoly of Facebook and Google also downplay quality journalism. “Google and Facebook dominate online news traffic and consume the bulk of digital ad revenue,” the group wrote. “Because of this digital duopoly, publishers are forced to surrender their content and play by their rules on how news and information is displayed, prioritized and monetized.  These rules have commoditized the news and given rise to fake news, which often cannot be differentiated from real news.”


@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.
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