The New York Times – “Facebook and Google have been brutal to the news business. But this primarily reflects a failure of imagination. The tech giants are the world’s best distribution platforms and could be an answer for journalism instead of a grave threat. As readers have shifted to digital sources, the two companies have taken a large majority of online advertising revenue. More important, the platforms now act as “regulators” of the news business — determining what information gets delivered to whom, and when. With the flick of an algorithmic finger, those two companies decide what news you see and whether a publisher lives or dies. The impact on journalism has been clear. Just within the past week, we have seen over 1,000 planned layoffs at Gannett, BuzzFeed and HuffPost, and no one thinks we are anywhere near the end. Facebook and Google’s answer so far has been to pledge to spend $300 million each over the next three years to help journalism. But that money will be dribbled across a huge news landscape, and much of it will undoubtedly be used to encourage further use of Facebook and Google products.
But such investments amount to charity, and charity will never be the answer. What news publishers really need are active partners who are willing to embrace the idea that quality journalism sustains our civic society and that the answer to bad information is more good information. We can start with the fact that “free” isn’t a good business model for quality journalism. Facebook and Google flatly refuse to pay for news even though they license many other types of content. Both companies have deals to pay music publishers when copyrighted songs play on their platforms. And the companies also aggressively bid to stream live sports and entertainment content to run on Facebook Watch and YouTube. These deals are varied and often secret, but none of them are based on “free.” Why are the platforms so unwilling to pay news publishers for access to the quality journalism that users need and value?..”