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Discussing whether social media platforms should pay for content.

The cost of content.

Creating fact-checked original content takes time and effort. Who should benefit from it?

Should digital behemoths like Facebook and Google be paying for the content they post? Does news belong to the organizations that are publishing it? Are news outlets just using these platforms as distribution channels? And, most importantly, what is the societal cost of where news reporting is heading?

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Recorded on February 26th, 2021

Transcript

Brad Breininger: 0:00

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s Everything is Brand. This week, we want to talk about the cost of content. So a lot of legislation is being addressed around the world, particularly in Australia right now around whether or not some of the platforms should be paying for the content that they post, let’s discuss. Australia is kind of leading the charge in saying that Facebook and Google should start to pay for some of the media content, some of the news that they’re posting on their platforms. And there’s been a real pushback from Facebook and Google, I think, in Australia, Facebook and Google have now conceded that that they should be paying, but I know it’s still going on. And now Canada’s kind of jumped into the mix as well saying that they might consider this kind of thing as well. What do you guys think? Should these platforms be responsible for paying the content that they post? Does news belong to them? Or is it being created by organizations that should be paid for their work? What do you think?

Marko Zonta:

Yeah, I think that this is definitely one of those areas where the news agencies are generating content, they are doing their research and are doing all the work, they should be paid for it. This is not social media terms of people posting their personal lives and information like that. That’s a different story. But when actual news is being used, yes, in order to kind of support that industry, and make sure that proper news creation and reporting remains, it has to be paid for. So yeah, I think that they need to to be paying for that.

Christian Rosenthal:

Okay, so I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here. Don’t you feel that news outlets are using Google and social media as additional distribution channels? So they’re using these platforms? Right? It’s not like they’re doing it for free. They’re using their services to promote their content.

Gabi Gomes:

But they’re also profiting from that correct? Yeah. Right. Oh, devil’s advocate. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that Google and Facebook are making millions, if not billions, of dollars on ad revenue from eyeballs, and the newspapers or the news outlets are not making money. So how can they and we love our news organizations, because they are fact checkers, they do investigative journalism, that they get to the core story that they fact checked everything left, right and center, and they actually put out accurate news, well, there’s a price for that. But if newspapers don’t have ads to run in them, then they can’t fund the work that they do. Right. So ultimately, if Google or Facebook or any other outlet wants to leverage that great news and true news, while then they should be sharing part of those profits that they see. And we’ve seen what happens, at the end of the day, Google and Facebook are not in the business of journalism, I mean, then they put together a small bunch of fact checkers, like recently of people that are going in, or how many people is that really, really how many people are employed at Facebook fact checking, I highly doubt it’s a lot of people. Meanwhile, you’ve got journalists who do this for a living, who should be compensated for it.

Marko Zonta:

It just felt very one sided. And this also shows how the whole new cycle and new creation and all of that has changed in the last 15 years or so, in terms of how technology plays such a big role in our lives. Now, all of those traditional channels are gone. Everything is digital now. So it’s really, I guess, a point in history where new laws have to be put in place new rules, new guidelines, and new business plans and structures. So I think that this is really just the inevitable, right? And this was gonna happen. It’s happening now. But in order to generate really good news, information, accurate information, somebody needs to work on that, and somebody needs to pay for it.

Brad Breininger:

You know, it’s interesting, because back in the day, when news were primarily delivered on television, the news departments of these big networks, they weren’t a profit making entity. They were almost like a service that the network’s gave back in order to make the money on the other content that they produced. And that’s kind of where it started. And it kind of kept an arm’s length, affiliation to the news generation arm of the network. Here’s my fear. My fear is that Google and Facebook are going to look at this and say, Okay, well wait a minute. Instead of paying all this money to these traditional news outlets, why don’t we just create our own. So then all of a sudden, they’re going to own the platform. And they’re going to own the news much the way it was with some of those networks in the past. But I don’t feel like the ethics are there the way they were back, then I don’t feel like there’s going to be that arm’s length kind of situation, and that Facebook and Google aren’t going to operate in their own interest. And then they’re going to own the facts and the platform. And I think that that is a little bit scary. So I mean, I’m a little happy that the government’s are stepping in, depending on how it all maps out. I think I agree with all of you that people should be paid for their work, regardless of anything, no profit shouldn’t be that one sided. But I think as you go deeper into the issue, this idea that that the platform is also going to run the news at the same time, I find that even scarier,

Marko Zonta:

But you know, but it’s interesting that you brought that up, because that’s already happening in other areas. If you look at the entertainment side for example, Netflix, they have their own platform, they create their own content, right, like Amazon has their own platform, they create their own content, right. So it is really changing that industry. And I think that this whole news industry will change as well, right? You’re right, like Google and Facebook and some other platforms may actually decide it’s in their best interest to just generate their own content.

Brad Breininger:

I guess the worrisome part is Bridgerton, and the war in Syria are not the same thing. You know what I mean? It’s a little frightening from that perspective. I agree with you, I’m not sure that the entertainment world should just produce its own stuff. That being said, I think that they do get a lot of pressure for representation and making sure that all different kinds of stories are told. But on the new side, I think that the bar is much higher, don’t you think?

Marko Zonta:

But if you actually look at, for example, what’s going on in the States in terms of news, we know how certain news channels are very politically aligned with a specific side, right.

Brad Breininger:

And let’s call out Fox, and CNN fox is like watching the republican infomercial on CNN is like watching the democratic infomercial,

Marko Zonta:

Right? And so really, I mean, news channels, they they generate news, but they actually have a very, very strong opinion about certain things. Right. So is that really news anymore? Because news should really just be reporting on facts. And that’s it. Right. But it’s way beyond that, though.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, there was a story that I read, I think it was last week that talked about that thing exactly, about how the lines are being blurred. And they called out Fox and CNN particularly. And they said that the lines are being blurred, because there’s two types of programming on both of those stations, there is the news programming, where there is a more unbiased approach. But then you have people like Tucker Carlson or Anderson Cooper, where those are opinion shows. And it used to be that there would be mostly news on those stations, and then there’d be you know, one or two opinion shows, usually later at night. Well, now, it’s wall to wall opinion shows. And the standard to which they’re being held is not the same as on the news. Even when you watch Fox News, and you watch the new segments, they feel a lot more unbiased, but then you tune into, you know, Tucker Carlson. And it’s a whole other level of bias and opinion and everything else,

Marko Zonta:

Because a lot of those news channels or episodes or whatever, they are now seen as part of entertainment. Right? So there is a huge part of it is entertainment. Now I said earlier, it’s no longer just reporting on facts. And I will actually say that even I watch CTV News, I’m noticing how it is becoming very sensationalized. It’s all about headlines, and blowing things out of proportion to the point where it’s like, you’re not providing facts anymore, you’re actually generating opinions to drive a specific point of view. And I have to say, like, it’s in the States, it’s it’s quite obvious about what’s what’s happening. But I’m thinking that it’s happening, definitely here in Canada and probably elsewhere as well.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah. I mean, are the news agencies based on what we’re just saying here? Are the news agencies better equipped than Google and Facebook to create this content? Are we just being crazy? Or is there just so much emphasis on sensationalism and entertainment now that it doesn’t matter who produces the content, it’s just going to be to sell ads or to bring eyeballs into the platform?

Marko Zonta:

I think one of the biggest issues is speed. They need to generate content immediately. And when it comes to fact checking when it comes to research and all that stuff, it takes time. And now you’re putting something out five days later when everybody else is ready. onto a different topic,

Brad Breininger:

I agree with the speed. But it’s also the amount of time that they have to talk. It’s just endless talking and sharing new things like, you watch CNN every two seconds, there’s breaking news. None of it is breaking news. It’s all just filler. And so yeah, they have to be fast. But then they have to fill all this time. News used to be half an hour a night or half an hour a day. Now it’s like 24, seven on multiple channels. And it’s like, Where’s all this news coming from? Does Tiger Woods rolling over his SUV? Is that news is it?

Jeremy Linskill:

You know, I don’t I don’t really even watch the news anymore. To be frank, I get everything through a headline or through word of mouth. Because I find when I turn on the news channel, it’s just repetition. It’s like every five minutes to your point, Tiger Woods rolled over net TV. And it’s just constantly constantly saying the same thing over and over again, which I agree with you Brad, it’s just about killing time. It’s just like, now every channel is 24 hours, seven days a week, it’s not the half hour short bursts that he used to be, which is when you get in the most important news, in the half an hour you’ve got. Now it’s like you got to talk forever and ever and ever. But I think thinking about all this, and how it’s all going to pan out. I don’t know, like, yeah, maybe with this, Google and Facebook will, to your point, like take on their own news, news channels, like why wouldn’t they? I mean, they have the money to sort of employ the people to do the work. And if there’s enough money there for it, then if we’re getting enough flack from these other news channels, like why not just cut them off and and be your own boss? I mean, I don’t know. I think it’s gonna be interesting to watch this over time.

Gabi Gomes:

Okay, so I’ve got a question. The traditional news agencies, newspapers have been around for centuries, reporting on this news, it comes down to a trust factor, they have a proven track record of trust. reporting on the trust, I don’t know, I think they do.

Jeremy Linskill:

Do they? I don’t think they do anymore.

Gabi Gomes:

Okay, let’s compare, let’s compare. Would you trust the New York times over Facebook? Who would you trust?

Jeremy Linskill:

Here is what I would trust. I entrust my friend on Facebook, to give me the news over getting it from New York Times.

Gabi Gomes:

I don’t know about that. If your political views if your political views align perhaps,

Brad Breininger:

Have you met some of Gabi’s friends?

Jeremy Linskill:

They’re Gabi’s friends, not my friends! I don’t have any friends.

Brad Breininger:

Who are these friends of which you speak Jerry?

Jeremy Linskill:

Exactly. And maybe it’s me posting my own information for me to read back to myself?

Gabi Gomes:

I don’t want to compare the US and Canada. But I think we are a little bit more fortunate up here to have more unbiased news than we do south of the border. But I think I do trust our news organizations, they have the track record, they have reported that, yes, do they have time against them, but they’ve solved those issues, Marco, that you were mentioning, in terms of time, often we get a first pass up there online, with “Oh” if you scroll up to the bottom or to the top, it’s usually saying it’s updated, etc. So they’re constantly working on that particular piece of news. Either fact check it, or I’m sure they’ve got standards as to how many facts they have to check before they publish, and even just constantly updating the story as it goes along. But I don’t know. I’m with you, Brad. It’s a scary world if Google is going to own the news, and Facebook is going to own the news, frankly, simply because of their track record. Right. I think Facebook, and this goes back to our previous podcast as well has somewhat ruined it for themselves, their trust factor, like I don’t know anybody who trust Facebook, frankly, like I think their trust factor is super low. I mean, we use it for what we use it, but I don’t I don’t know that I entirely trust Marky Mark over there. Google. You know, I think they started off well, but at the end of the day, when these companies are pulling the profits that they’re pulling, you know, it’s questionable did torstar Well, what’s his name? Mr. Black over there, at one point was super, super rich as well. And he owned a news organization. So I don’t know if it gets to the point of they become too big. And but at the same time, here’s my thing. Am I gonna trust a small little guy who’s like, reporting out on the news on YouTube? Probably not either, like, I’m not going to trust him with with whatever news is, is happening or working on it.

Brad Breininger:

I think it’s about looking at the whole structure of it, right. I think the reason that we trust The Washington Post or the New York Times, or the Toronto Star, is because they’ve been around for a long time. And and there has been some ethical things built into the way they operate. That being said, they were also at one time all run by old white guys. So the perspective of these agencies was not necessarily representative of the entire population. And if you look at some of the systemic issues that we have around racism and some of these other areas, it stems partly from the sharing of information over however many years, does the New York Times have a great brand? Absolutely they do. Do they have a better brand than Facebook when it comes to news? Yes, they do. But does that mean that they’ll be better at reporting? Or have we just seen that in the past? Are they leveraging their old ethical way of reporting the news into their current brand? Or are they still following the same things that they used to do back in the day when they when there was a certain ethics and a certain fact checking responsibility that they had, but it was all run by primarily white, Anglo Saxon kinds of people? So…

Gabi Gomes:

Anybody else worried about domination here? Do we not see what Facebook and Google nobody worried about? Like, domination, World Domination here, what ever happened to playing nice in the sandbox altogether? And everybody stick to their lane and everybody kind of, I mean, at the end of the day, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a lawyer. I go to people who do that, why can’t we just go to the news organization to get our news? Why do we have to know it all be at all?

Brad Breininger:

Okay, well, Gabi, apparently you live in 1954, Illinois. So other than money, like the name of this podcast is the cost of content. So let’s talk about the cost of content money, right? If Google has to pay a lot of money, or they can create their own channel, what do you think their choice is going to be?

Marko Zonta:

But to that point, it costs a lot of money to generate news, but news also generates a lot of money. Let’s face it, some of those corporations of the past news reporting, they were wealthy organizations, there were massive media channels. And that’s changing a little bit, right. So it was done through advertising through all kinds of other business deals and everything else. So there’s definitely a cost to coming up with content. And this may just be a matter of shifting from some corporations to different corporations. Really, it’s still corporations that are generating content.

Jeremy Linskill:

Going back to what you were saying earlier, like that’s exactly what’s happening in entertainment business, right? We’re going from the channels on television, to the channels online, through Netflix, Amazon, we’re seeing all of that that’s exactly what’s happening, right is that shift is happening there. And now it’s happening in the news as well.

Marko Zonta:

I think that in the past, we relied on one or two news channels to get all our news. Now you have the ability to actually verify or do your own research, if you want to, I mean, you get a piece of information and I come across some information, sometimes whether, I hear it on the radio or read it somewhere or whatever. And if it doesn’t quite seem right, I’m actually do my own research. Is anybody else reporting on this? Like, what’s the actual thing that’s going on here?

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, and that’s a really good point. Marko. I mean, I think that the responsibility is that you shouldn’t believe anyone, entity on anything. I mean, do your homework and your point about listening to your friends, you know, if your friends are diverse, and have all different opinions and come from different places, then that’s actually a really good way to go. Because then you’re getting multiple perspectives. And I think we’re we’re running into problems is when people are just being fed the same perspective over and over and over again. And it’s it, that’s what’s causing problems. You know, we’re talking about the cost of content. Well, there’s the financial cost of content, but then there’s also the societal cost of content. And I think that when you look at what’s gone on the past four years in the United States, that was a huge cost that was paid for people being pigeon holed into this one way of thinking or delivered all of this content around a certain perspective, instead of opening people up to debate or discussion or conversation or seeing things in different ways. The truth is, is that there’s been liberal and conservative politics for hundreds of years, if not longer, and probably even going back to ancient Greece and such. But the reality is, is that more and more those lines are being drawn even stronger, and that is the frightening part. That’s the cost that I’m not willing to pay or that I don’t want to see us pay. And that’s the societal cost, if that means that we have multiple outlets delivering news on these big platforms in order to alleviate some of that, that would be great. But you also have to look at the hybrids that are cropping up, right? Like, it’s not even just news or entertainment anymore. Now it’s infotainment, like, look at BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed is comes across as a news organization. But all they really do are these kind of milk toast lists around who are the five best celebrities who are that, like, it’s not even real news. But they envelope it in this idea that it’s somehow news.

Gabi Gomes:

And to some people, that is their only news.

Christian Rosenthal:

I have a question for you, Brad, you are talking about multiple perspectives right? Facebook did arrange this deal where they are going to pay several publishers for their news? Right. So do you feel that’s dangerous too? Because, Facebook would be deciding which news outlets would go out through their platform. So don’t you feel that that’s dangerous as well?

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, I think anytime you mix economics with information, you’re going to run into those problems. I think the way they kind of handled that in the past is that there was this whole kind of arm’s length approach where the economics of the newsroom it’s funny, because if you go back, and there’s a great show by Aaron Sorkin called the newsroom, if you ever get a chance to watch it, it’s fantastic. But those old timey newsrooms were almost like at arm’s length from the rest of the network. And basically, they would fight with the executives all the time around staying out of the news business. And so I think that there were these arm’s length kinds of things there were these things put in place to take care and alleviate some of that Christian, because I agree with you, 100%. I think it’s a huge, huge issue. I just hope that if we go forward with that a similar model, that that same level of ethics, and that same level of responsibility, if Facebook and Google or any other platform decided to go in the news business, if they continue that level on because that would be in all of our best interest.

Marko Zonta:

It’s interesting, because we’re talking a lot about the cost. And, Gabi, you brought up the trust issue. And I think that that’s actually a big part of it, right? Because certain brands, Facebook, for sure, they just don’t have that trust element connected to their brand. Now, they will have to work very hard to to change that, if that’s even something to actually want to do. But you still have a huge population that gets all of their information from Facebook.

Jeremy Linskill:

Yeah, I wonder if that was because I’m thinking about all this. Now. I wonder if that was part of Tim Cook’s strategy. When he did that, whatever that presentation, the other the other week quick, basically, about Facebook, about trying to build trust with his audience or with their audience and going about things a little bit differently from a strategic perspective. Because I was really like, him sitting down in front of a camera. And basically giving a speech changes the way you start to think about Apple a little bit. It’s like, oh, are they looking for my best interests? Are they my body guard a little bit? And I’m just wondering, like, as we move forward, because you look at Mark Zuckerberg, it’s the other way he gets pitched as sort of being the devil a little bit, and all that kind of stuff. Right? And I’m just wondering if maybe it’s a different strategy, that Apple kind of taking as they’re moving forward? With something I was thinking about, shake your head?

Gabi Gomes:

No, no, I think Apple’s strategy is actually going into the health tech area. And as such trust is needed to go into that area. So I think this is a little bit of a play to move in that direction.

Jeremy Linskill:

Right, but it’s still to build trust, trust,

Gabi Gomes:

But I think that there’s dollar signs behind that too.

Jeremy Linskill:

Oh, for sure. There always has to be that. I mean, that’s That goes without saying, but it’s just a different avenue of trying to build this trust in a different way.

Marko Zonta:

The Apple brand, also, if you remember, and this probably goes, I don’t know, maybe five years back, the whole privacy issue around what data from your phone is accessible to the police to the government and Apple, whether you like that brand or not, they actually stood up and they said no, that’s up your information. They happen that information is on personal devices, and you will not have access to that will do whatever it takes to keep that information private. Right. So they actually made that decision A while back and that’s part of their brand and I think that people actually trust that brand for that reason. And this is maybe just another step I guess because they are moving into healthcare a lot and definitely that they people will have to trust that brand to share their their health information.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah. At the end of everything, the most important thing here is that we have so many more channels and platforms now that have to be filled with content. And all of that content means that we’re going to hear all of these different stories, all of these different ideas. And these big organizations, they want to make money and they want to fill their coffers with information and deliver it out so that they can continue to sell the ad revenue and do all the things that they need to do, which is not unlike the way it was before. It’s just that there’s so much more going on now than there was previously. So when you think about the cost of content, it really is important to fill those platforms with that content. Now, the people who are working hard to deliver on that content, they need to be paid, as we said, but that being said, these organizations should not be self regulating. I like the fact that Australia and Canada are kind of stepping in and saying, you know what, we need to have a voice at this table, depending on what that legislation looks like, or that regulation looks like it may go stronger in some areas, and less strong in other areas. But the reality is, is that you can’t have too much government, like maybe happens in China with Huawei and some of their ways of dealing with things. But you also can’t have too much Corporation, which kind of happens in the Western world quite a bit. There has to be more of that, that balance, because the truth is, is that the people who are providing the content need to be paid. And there needs to be multiple perspectives. But there’s also a societal cost to our content. And we’ve seen evidence of it over time, especially within the last few years. So yes, people need to make money. But we also don’t want to pay a huge cost in society, about people not seeing all sides of an issue or, or they’re being balanced reporting on the news. And I said earlier, Bridgerton is not Syria. And then that’s true. You know, there’s entertainment and there are things that really entertain us and bring joy, but then there’s information that we just need to have so that we can make balanced decisions when it comes to voting or anything else that we need to do for society. So the cognitive content is real. People want to make money organizations want to make money, but while we’re doing that, we have to make sure that we’re not paying too high a price in other areas. So that’s this week’s Everything is Brand. Join us next week for a new topic, a new discussion. And remember, everything is brand.

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