Media vs Big Tech: The Fightback

close up photography of smartphone icons

For some time, media and tech seemed to play along nicely. Outlets pivoted to platforms and those platforms were more than happy to scoop up and push out the free content. Today, it seems to be an all-out war. We’ve already had the NYT taking on OpenAI in an increasingly bitter legal battle. Now, 32 media groups have taken out a $2.3bn antitrust suit against Google, challenging its adtech practices, Kendra Barnett at The Drum reported. (Thanks to my friends at Media Voices for flagging the story in their daily newsletter.)

On the other side of the table, Meta is pulling its News tab in the US and Australia. They made the same move in the UK, France and Germany last year. In an announcement, Meta said:

As a company, we have to focus our time and resources on things people tell us they want to see more of on the platform, including short form video. The number of people using Facebook News in Australia and the U.S. has dropped by over 80% last year. We know that people don’t come to Facebook for news and political content — they come to connect with people and discover new opportunities, passions and interests. As we previously shared in 2023, news makes up less than 3% of what people around the world see in their Facebook feed, and is a small part of the Facebook experience for the vast majority of people.

Unsaid is the fact that it is hard to moderate that kind of content and they don’t want to spend the time and money required to do so, especially in a year when 50% of the world will be voting in elections. As I noted recently, another Meta platform, Threads, is almost antagonistic in its approach to news and politics. (Facebook says it has “built the largest global fact-checking network of any platform by partnering with more than 90 independent fact-checking organizations around the world who review content in more than 60 languages.” 

Media Has Learnt The Hard Way

Perhaps the media, particularly traditional outlets, were duped into ever thinking that Big Tech could ever be its friend. Perhaps, as the likes of Kara Swisher argue, Big Tech was never the media’s friend and was always going to steal its lunch money. 

I should end this column by offering thoughts on a sensible, productive way to solve this conflict. Sadly, far greater industry brains have not come up with a solution, so don’t expect me to! However, it is pretty clear now that while platforms can be a useful distribution channel, publishers of all sizes – from me to The New York Times – must never be reliant on them. Own the tech you can. Own the distribution channels you can. Build real relationships with readers/listeners/viewers. I appreciate these observations might not be original, but they matter.

Media outlets have learnt all this the hard way. The fightback is on.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top