"The newsstand around the corner? Is currently called Facebook or Google."
Newsadoo founder David Böhm on the current discussion about ancillary copyright, Facebook power demonstrations in Australia, and other hot topics in the industry.
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. The wholesaler takes care of logistics, the retail distribution network, and billing. The publishers pay for the service so that they are relatively inexpensive, well placed, and widely distributed. Common in the newsstand: one magazine is next to the other, one pile of newspapers next to the other. 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 from us at the publishing location! 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 only our own medium can be bought. Nobody came up with these ideas. Because it doesn't make sense. But these are precisely the fantasies that are being discussed more and more often in publishing houses these days. Exclusivity of one's own brand. Serving only one's own channels. Own systems. And tending to badmouth existing vehicles for digital distribution.
The new way
The digital press wholesaler is thriving. The only difference is that it works differently. And it's 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) bother with handling a digital subscription. They simply deliver free of charge. And as resourceful entrepreneurs, they have come up with other ways to monetize this service: Advertising.
But who would blame the tobacconist 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.
Of course, this is an exaggeration. And of course a performance protection right, which gives authors the opportunity to decide whether and where parts of their content can be profitably exploited, is justified. It is even a necessary tool for the future of publishers. I'm a clear proponent. I've seen the relationship that publishers have had with Google and Facebook for years as very dangerous. Because of the creeping dependency that has grown steadily over the past few years. The Google-Facebook discussion is therefore existentially important in the industry. But it should also be conducted honestly.
Google and Facebook are not to blame for the fact that for years publishers have completely overlooked the fact that they have put themselves at the mercy of the digital sector. You could say the entire industry took a wrong turn digitally years ago, and blames the landowner of the impasse for not moving forward here.
Google, Facebook, the media - and the users
It's wrong for regional and national publishers to rival each other - the real competitors are now at home in America. It's nonsense for each publisher to develop its own technology, run apps, introduce paywalls, and spend vast 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 gear their products to the needs of users. In the meantime, Europe is debating legal regulations to ban or restrict the best technologies and solutions instead of developing better ones themselves.
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 geared less to the needs of the publishers and more to the users. It has to knock Google & Facebook off their heels, and just wow the users. It has to be aggressively forward. Innovative, courageous, and above all, a common solution! Pursuing common interests with combined force. Not in lobbying, but in technology and innovation.
We have been working since 2017 to make this vision a reality. Although many publishers have to date ruled out wanting to make common cause on a grand scale. Which would be nothing new. It's always been that way in press wholesaling. And on Google? On Facebook? Aren't they all represented together here, too? We have developed a technology that is an international leader and has the potential to overtake systems like Google News in Europe. We're developing features that put the user at the center, will delight them and 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, that in the optimal case 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.