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December 14, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:52am

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson says journalists are no longer an ‘endangered species’ thanks to payment negotiations with Duopoly

By William Turvill

The news industry’s battle for payments from Google and Facebook means that journalists should no longer be considered an “endangered species”, according to the boss of News Corp.

Robert Thomson, chief executive of the publisher behind the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones and the UK’s Times and Sun titles, believes there is now “a realistic prospect of more digital sites being more successful”.

Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp has been at the forefront of global publishing industry efforts to make Google and Facebook – known as the Duopoly because of their dominance in digital advertising – pay their fair share for news content that they benefit from. Press Gazette has also long called for change through our Duopoly campaign.

Google and Facebook, recently ranked by Press Gazette as the world’s two largest news and information businesses, are coming under pressure to pay for news in jurisdictions around the world. Most notably, the Australian government is pushing through new regulations that would force the Duopoly to pay news providers for their content. Australian publishers including News Corp are in negotiations – described as being at an “advanced stage” by Thomson – with the tech giants.

In other areas, both companies are proactively handing out money to publishing companies. Google recently pledged to pay out $1bn to publishers over the next three years. Facebook, meanwhile, is rolling out its Facebook News scheme – under which is pays news outlets for their content – to the UK next month, having launched in the US in 2019.

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“The contours of digital content have changed fundamentally,” Thomson told investors at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference. “The sorts of negotiations that are taking place now were regarded as fanciful by many in the digital industry two or three years ago. And some mocked, frankly, News Corp for being such a strong advocate of a premium for premium content.

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“I have to pay tribute to Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch and the News Corp board because it has at times been a genuinely lonely journey over the past decade. We were often seen as a voice in the wilderness, and now that single voice has clearly become a global chorus.”

In addition to payments for content, Thomson said upcoming changes in adtech, which will improve transparency in the sector, should benefit media companies.

He said: “The transparency around adtech we believe longer term will increase the yield on our ad inventory and frankly our control over that inventory. And we have absolutely no doubt in the quality of that inventory.”

Thomson said there is a “social purpose” to News Corp’s lobbying activity, adding: “It was very clear that journalism and journalists were an endangered species in the previous digital model.

“Now, not just for us but for the entire industry, the terms of trade are changing. There is a realistic prospect of more digital sites being more successful.

“And you can see, frankly, it’s still at the stage where so many traditional digital companies [are now] merging because they simply have not been able to find a way through the digital thicket.

“I think what we’ve been able to do, certainly for our company – because our first obligation is to our employees and to our shareholders – but more specifically for the industry, [is] we have been able to pave a pathway to the future.

“And I’m confident that that future will be not only auspicious, but to a certain extent, prosperous – which it needs to be if you’re going to invest in journalism.”

Picture: News UK

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