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Facebook and Google Are in Rebuilding Mode with Publishers

November 8, 2017 | Media & Entertainment


Gilles Demptos
Director, Asia
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)

The recent backlash against fake news isn’t just causing headaches for the general public—it’s a chief factor that made heavy hitters Google and Facebook work to improve their relationships with news publishers. Gilles Demptos, Asia director at the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), spoke with eMarketer’s David Green about what’s happening in the publishing industry as monetization challenges and the threat of regulation come to a head.

eMarketer: What’s the major challenge you’re currently helping many digital publishers address?

Gilles Demptos: There’s a lot of emphasis on monetization. In the past six months, we’ve been looking at the ad exchanges and networks to get premium publishers higher cost per thousand [CPMs] for programmatic. There is also a growing trend of charging for online content and paid subscriptions.

eMarketer: Are customers more willing to pay for content now, or are paywalls just a move by publishers looking to survive?

Demptos: It’s a mix of those things. According to our “World Press Trends” report, the global digital circulation revenues for news publishers grew by [at least] 28% annually from 2012 to 2016. Taking into account print subscriptions and digital subscriptions, audience revenues represent 56% of the total revenues of newspapers.

The newspaper business model was traditionally based on ad revenues—it was about 80% advertising, 20% circulation. A shift happened in 2014, and the two lines crossed, primarily due to the fall in print advertising but also the increase in digital subscriptions.

“Now [Google and Facebook] realize it’s highly valuable to have trustworthy content—and trustworthy inventory—where you can reach good audiences in the right context.”

eMarketer: Google and Facebook have recently been more openhanded in how they deal with publishers that offer subscription content. What’s driving that change?

Demptos: We’ve watched the situation evolve drastically. They have to address the phenomenon of fake news, hoaxes, hate speech, and the problems with advertising that these platforms are facing at the moment. They try to downplay it in public, but it’s actually a huge problem for them and has made them reconsider their relationships with publishers.They used to be much less open to discussing how to make things easier for news publishers. Now they realize it’s highly valuable to have trustworthy content—and trustworthy inventory—where you can reach good audiences in the right context.

eMarketer: How have their relationships with publishers changed?

Demptos: Google and Facebook are listening to requests from publishers to gain a fairer deal. Google just announced the end of the First Click Free [FCF] policy that publishers had complained about for years. At the beginning of 2018 they will let publishers send subscription offers to users through their platform.

Facebook was about to announce a similar move that would allow publishers to make some subscription offers on instant articles, but they want publishers to give the first 10 articles for free. They haven’t made the announcement yet.

“[Governments] are holding platforms responsible for the toxic content they might help to spread.”

eMarketer: Is the threat of regulatory intervention in Washington, D.C., motivating Google and Facebook to improve relationships with trusted publishers?

Demptos: It’s not only in Washington. A few months before the election, Germany passed a regulation that imposes heavy fines on platforms that carry false information, disinformation or hate speech. They’re holding platforms responsible for the toxic content they might help to spread. If they don’t act fast enough, this could happen in many countries.

This has motivated the platforms to establish contacts with governments and publishers to act in a preventive way to avoid the implementation of regulations hostile to their business.

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