ICYMI: Innovation In The News Industry
Earlier this month, CPI and CCIA hosted a timely discussion on “The Future Of Innovation In News Production” that brought together experts with diverse views to discuss innovation in the news industry.
In case you missed it, highlights include:
— Current regulatory solutions won’t fix the news industry’s underlying challenges.
— Disruptive technology offers innovative opportunities for news publishers to thrive.
— Innovation is key to competition and policy should reflect that.
Current regulatory solutions won’t fix the news industry’s underlying challenges.
The agreements driven by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) News Media Bargaining Code do not solve the underlying problem, said Cathy Gellis, internet lawyer and policy advocate. “The fact that a number of large companies have reached a sort of stasis that they can commercially live with does not mean that we’ve actually solved any particular problems for anybody else on the planet, including some of the fundamental issues and tensions that were informing this policy proposal.”
— In fact, these mandatory regulations are likely to make the situation for smaller news outlets “even worse,” she continued. “[Current regulatory solutions] seem to just sort of be making what’s wrong even worse. They’re encouraging the consolidation, they’re encouraging the bigness, and they’re squelching the smaller independents in this, in journalism, which might be doing a better job, particularly for all local news, and we’re losing a lot of that access to more local what’s going on in the world, which then can percolate up and inform people elsewhere on the planet.”
The Australian approach doesn’t serve small, local, independent news publishers according to Public Knowledge’s Charlotte Slaiman. “I don’t think that that [ACCC] solution is serving small, local, independent news, which I think is what is so important for our democracy. That is the type of news that people are really relying on as a sort of antidote to so much of the misinformation that is so attractive on the internet these days.”
Disruptive technology offers innovative opportunities for news publishers to thrive.
Thomas Bihlmayer of the Association of the Internet Industry noted technology innovation disrupted the classical publishing industry. “If we’re looking at the media, we’re having a situation there where we have two big groups. We have the tech industry that came up with something new, which is search engines, platforms, everything that is based on the internet, which is quick in its development and leaping forward in very short timeframes. Then we have on the other side a very classical industry, which is the press publishers, which is the news industry that has been there for years, hundreds of years. And since then, to be honest, has not developed too much.”
Consumers moved online and shifted the way news was consumed — creating a new adaptation challenge for publishers, said Bilhmayer. “And so in the middle of it, you have the consumer or the reader. And they moved forward with the development of technology, they moved forward. They read the news online, but moved forward to reading news they reach over search engines, and nowadays everyone has his/her mobile phone and has apps installed, and consumes differently than the four of us I assume in their favorite social media app. This could be TikTok, this could be Facebook, this could be YouTube or you name it, whichever you prefer. So the question is maybe we need to adapt to that change looking at the press publishers.”
Technology offers new and innovative tools for news publishers to effectively reach their audiences, according to Bihlmayer. “And I mean, Cathy pointed it out, it should be kind of the time right now is the perfect time for spreading your news, for being a journalist, for maybe even being a publisher. Using the tools that are out there, given by the so-called big tech, and just reaching the audience you want to reach. I mean, it’s easier than it was ever before to, even if you have a very specific, very narrow specialty or special field of interest, to reach an audience making it worth writing for them.”
Innovation is key to competition and policy should reflect that.
Gellis noted that regulations focused on fostering innovation could help drive change. “But then there’s also reasons why the big tech companies are based in California, and that it was a regulatory environment that allowed them to take root and grow where you wouldn’t necessarily see that in other parts of the country or other parts of the world. California, for many, many years, I don’t know how far back it goes but I think we’re talking decades, has considered non compete agreements to violate public policy, and they’ve not been enforceable.”
Looking ahead, regulations should focus on getting rid of barriers, Gellis continued. “And I think some of the answer from a regulatory standpoint is not necessarily regulation that is thou shalt not, thou shalt, or mandates of what a company needs to do. Thou shalt have the interoperability. Maybe the thing to do is what I was saying earlier, get rid of the barriers and look for the fluidity so that people’s innovations, innovative spirit can take root and actually produce something without fearing that they’re going to be chilled.”
External scapegoating of technology providers is not the answer, said Gellis. “So this should be a fantastic period for journalism in America and probably the world, and the fact that it’s not, we need to figure out why. But this external scapegoating of, well let’s blame the toolmakers who are providing these other mechanisms I don’t think is the way to go.”