Published: Feb 06, 2020 04:30 PM

A Google spokeswoman in the January 12, 2020, New York Times article, “The Decimation of Local News Has Lawmakers Crossing The Aisle,” was quoted, “Every month, Google News and Google Search drive over 24 billion visits to publishers’ websites, which drive subscriptions and significant ad revenue.”

That may be true for large publications, but for small, community newspapers, such as our own, that supposed benefit does not hold true. A measurable number of readers are not pushed to newtownbee.com when our local news pops up, for instance, at Facebook’s “Today In…” site. Nor is The Newtown Bee experiencing an uptick in subscriptions generated by outside social media postings of our articles, or increased online ad revenue.

A proposal put forth in Congress last month, which according to The New York Times has bipartisan support, “would give news organizations an exemption from antitrust laws, allowing them to band together to negotiate with Google and Facebook over how their articles and photos are used online, and what payments the newspapers get from the tech companies.”

Will locally focused newspapers benefit from this bill? Can community newspapers join together to force tech companies sharing photos and articles from our papers on their sites to offer compensation?

According to a University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism study in 2018, the previous 15 years had seen a loss of more than 1,800 smaller newspapers, a drop of 20 percent from 2004. Coupled with severe cutbacks in many surviving community newsrooms, readers nationwide are feeling the pinch of local news loss — and much rests squarely on the shoulders of lost ad revenue that is vital to a thriving print news industry.

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What does drive readers to our print edition and to newtownbee.com are the kinds of articles that are only generated by on-the-ground reporters and a staff personally invested in the town. We have said it before: Regional news and social media do not provide consistent, in-depth reporting compared to that of a paper with a hyperlocal focus. We believe residents are not willing to sacrifice articles backed up by facts and truthful coverage for bite-sized, word-of-mouth chatter that is not fact checked.

Legislation geared toward protecting large publications with the dollars and sense to create a coalition that forces tech giants to pay up is fine for our national interests.

What community news needs is the support of the businesses and residents that call a place “home.” What is the value of community news to you? How will you support an industry whose mission is to provide you with valuable information that affects your daily life?

Social media and tech giants are not going away. But rethinking support in a way that shows that local news is valued in this changing world takes dedication.

Advertising in print reaches thousands of readers, some of who are not tech savvy, and for small businesses that can be a far larger number than the click-throughs on any online post.

Big tech driving subscriptions and significant ad revenue? We’d be googly-eyed to think so.





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