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News snippets could disappear from Google Australia

By Chris Dawson January 22, 2021 - 4:41 pm

Most news outlets benefit enormously from having their stories indexed in search engines and on social media and one of the things that drags readers on to their platform to read the full article are news snippets – a short piece of text from the article. This is true regardless if the platform is free to access or behind a paywall where the publisher makes money from subscribers.

Australia doesn’t think so however and wants search engines and social platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay to display news snippets, claiming they receive significant value from them. Their proposed News Media Bargaining Code sets out plans to make the search and social giants pay.

Google have spoken at the Australian Senate Economics Committee Inquiry pointing out that links are the basis of how the Internet works and that if Google can’t include links then they’ll pretty much be forced to stop showing results to Australians.

“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to Search. Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.”
– Mel Silva, VP, Australia & New Zealand, Google

Google aren’t saying that they are unwilling to pay news publishers for using their content, but are insisting that the proposal of paying an unlimited number of publishers unspecified amounts to be decided in the future is unworkable for Google as a business. They point out that search is much more than news and includes just about every business that wants to be found online. Google also say that the planned legislation has an overly broad and vague definition of news.

“Each year we help more than 19 million Australians find information online. The fact that we offer a useful search engine provides the platform for 1.3 million businesses, large and small, in Australia to be discovered by users here and around the world The fact that you can Search for everything from recipes, the weather, or news, means you also search for your local cafe, or great plumber near me.”
– Mel Silva, VP, Australia & New Zealand, Google

Google have an alternative proposition which is News Showcase. They are not saying they won’t pay publishers, merely that the proposed plans to pay for News snippets are unworkable.

“News Showcase launched in 2020, and has global budget of $1.3 billion over three years, it pays news publishers for their editorial judgment in curating panels of news that appear daily on Google services, and it pays to grant users access to selected stories behind-the-paywall – not for links in Search. News Showcase enables Google to pay a diverse range of news publishers, including smaller and regional publishers.”
– Mel Silva, VP, Australia & New Zealand, Google

While you might think that none of this applies to you, the definition of ‘publisher’ is very broad and the precedent an Australian law could set may be far reaching. If you think about your business, when does disseminating information about your product a ‘listing’ and when is it a ‘press release’? What happens if search engines and social start blocking your ‘news’ on the grounds they don’t want to pay you for it. In truth, much of the time you’re probably more than happy to pay a search engine or social platform to broadcast your product ‘news’.

We’ll be watching this one with interest, but Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, isn’t that keen on Google’s attitude responding to their statement that if the News Media Bargaining Code comes into force that Google would be forced to cease search services in Australia. Scott Morrison simply stated that Australia doesn’t respond to threats.

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