"The newsstand around the corner? Is currently called Facebook or Google." (Update)
Newsadoo founder David Böhm on the current discussion about ancillary copyright, Facebook power demonstrations in Australia, and other hot topics in the industry. (Updated on 31 March 2021)
The good old press wholesaler. All publishers work or worked with the same wholesalers, whose job it is or was to place newspapers and magazines in retail outlets so that readers can buy them. Wholesalers take care of the logistics, the retail distribution network, and the billing. The publishers pay for the service, so that they are relatively inexpensive, well and widely placed. This is common in newsstands: One issue lies next to the other, one stack of newspapers next to the others. Both the retailer and the wholesaler receive a significant share of the revenue generated by the sale of the publications. All quite normal. For decades.
Which newspaper had considerations like: No, we don't want to share the revenues; in the future, readers should pick up their newspaper directly at our publishing site! Or: We don't want to be next to all these other publications – our brand is the most important, and it needs exclusivity! So we build exclusive flagship kiosks where you can only buy our own medium. Nobody came up with these ideas. Because it doesn't make sense. For the digital sector, however, this is regularly discussed in publishing houses or even implemented in this way. Exclusivity of one's own brand. Serving only one's own channels. Own systems. And tend to be critical of other vehicles for digital distribution.
The new way
The digital press wholesaler is thriving. The only difference is that it works differently. And it is other players who have quietly built it up. Google and Facebook, who else? But the difference is significant: No, they don't take money from publishers. Nor do they usually (yet) take care of handling a digital subscription. They simply deliver free of charge. And as resourceful entrepreneurs, they have found other ways to monetize this service – advertising.
But who would blame the newsstand owner for getting rich off the customers who want to buy newspapers? Because they not only buy the newspaper, but often also cigarettes and perhaps a lottery ticket? Shouldn't he transfer a fee to the publishers for this? That would probably be grotesque. In the digital world, however, it comes down to this. Google and Facebook are supposed to hand over shares of their advertising revenues to the publishers, even though they are already profiting from massive amounts of traffic at zero cost. At least that's the argumentation of Google and Facebook.
Not everyone is happy about it, but the ancillary copyright, which gives the author the opportunity to decide whether and where parts of the content are profitably exploited, has a justification. It is even a necessary tool for the future of publishers. I'm a clear proponent. I've been critical of the relationship publishers have with Google and Facebook for years. Not because I'm critical of Google or Facebook, but because for a long time most publishers didn't realize that they were falling into a creeping dependency that was not beneficial to free and independent journalism. For years, digital business was not taken seriously, and increasing clicks and likes were recognized as an indicator of good development. A lot of money was spent, own social media editorial offices were built up – editorial departments were paid to produce content for Facebook.
Google and Facebook are not to blame for the fact that publishers have not put their own industry solution on the road for years. You could say the whole industry took a wrong turn digitally years ago, and blames the landowner of the impasse for not moving forward here. And if it does, it's only according to the owner's rules.
Google, Facebook, the media – and the users
It is not contemporary for regional and national publishers to act out their rivalry among themselves – the industry needs joint solutions. It's nonsense for every publisher to develop its own technology. Or to run apps, to introduce paywalls and spend huge amounts of money to develop systems that work the way the publisher would like users to access the publisher's content. It's not about the publishers. It's not about an end in itself. It's about the users – the people. They want to be entertained, they want to be informed, they want to be inspired. Google, Facebook and other tech companies from America demonstrate this every day. They consistently align their products with the needs of users. In the meantime, legal regulations are being debated in Europe in order to ban or restrict the best technologies and solutions instead of developing better ones.
Together in a new direction
From our point of view, the solution is simple and clear: We need our own digital European press wholesaler. But one that is focused less on the needs of the publishers and more on the needs of the users. It simply has to inspire the readers. It must move forward offensively. Innovative, courageous and, above all, together! Pursue common interests with combined strength. Not in lobbying, but in technology and innovation. And definitely also together with Facebook and with Google. Strengths should be combined, and innovative added value should be created together, from which everyone benefits. Users, publishers, and partners like Google and Facebook.
We have been working since 2017 to make this vision a reality. Although many publishers have so far ruled out the possibility of joining forces on a large scale. Which is nothing new. In press wholesaling, it has always been like this. And on Google? On Facebook? On Clubhouse? Aren't they all represented together here, too? The only question is: Who is faster and bigger?
We have developed a technology that is internationally leading, that combines all of the above. We develop functions that put the users in the center, inspire them and will keep them in the system for a long time. In the background, everything is based on data. The monetization possibilities are plausible and diverse. And above all, the goal is always that we build a system that works for the publishers and that, in the best case scenario, even belongs to them in the end.
Like almost everyone, I'm mostly in my home office at the moment, but that makes me all the easier to reach for personal discussions. I'm happy to hear counter-arguments, and even happier if we end up finding a common way to secure and strengthen the independence and diversity of European publishers in the long term. That is where my drive lies.