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Google, Facebook Cozy up to publishers as a circuit for regulators



alphabet
Inc.

Google and

Facebook
Inc.

makes concessions long sought after by news publishers whose business has been hurt by the dominance of the platforms, features that some in the media industry are looking at as an attempt to prevent potential regulatory setbacks.

Google last week announced changes to how it ranks news stories to better market original content, addressing publishers' long-standing complaints that their scoops were often overshadowed by quick rewrites of other outlets.

Meanwhile, Facebook is negotiating with media to pay them for the rights to publish their stories in a special news feed on the social media platform, and will rely on people to decide which stories to include, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.

"The platforms are finally recognizing the tremendous role they play in our ecosystem and that pretending to be neutral distribution channels just doesn't wash with regulators or the public either," said

Lydia Polgreen,

chief editor of HuffPost.

Top state authorities from across the country last week launched antitrust investigations on Facebook and Google, pushing further on technology giants already under federal scrutiny for their online dominance stifling competition.

Congress has opened an antitrust probe on Google, Facebook,

apple
Inc.

and

Amazon.com
Inc.

During the summer, the Federal Trade Commission imposed a $ 5 billion fine and supervision condition on Facebook for privacy violations.

The Department of Justice is investigating the United States' largest technology companies for allegedly monopolistic behavior. About 20 years ago, a similar case threatened to destabilize Microsoft. WSJ explains.

While the probes did not focus directly on the platforms' relationship with news publishers, the media industry has seen its business model severely disrupted by tech giants, especially in the area of ​​online advertising. Together, Facebook and Google controlled 60% of the US digital advertising market last year, according to eMarketer.

Google executives said the prospect of regulation did not affect their efforts to better market original news, adding that technological advances had finally allowed the company to face a long-standing concern among publishers.

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"The challenge of identifying and accurately ranking original reporting has taken years to address and has proved extremely difficult," he said

Richard Gingras,

Google's Vice President of News. "What has changed is that we now have much more technical capabilities than we had 1

0 years ago."

Facebook has expressed a commitment to improving its partnerships with news sites, especially those publishing legitimate, high-quality reporting. [19659003] "We understand the vital importance of rewarding publishers who put their resources into original reporting, which is why it has been one of our guiding principles for the news tab since we decided to develop the product earlier this year," so

Campbell Brown,

Facebook's Vice President of Global News Partnership. "It's important to get this done."

The outlets Facebook put up on the news tab include the magazine's publisher, Dow Jones, said people familiar with the matter.

While many in the news industry welcomed Google's algorithmic adjustment to help the original reporting rank higher on Google News, and several said they would reserve judgment until they could determine if the change had an impact.

"With all these things, you don't know what it means until you see it in practice," she said

David Chavern,

president and CEO of News Media Alliance, a trade coalition representing around 2,000 news organizations in the United States and Canada, including Dow Jones.

Mr. Gingras wrote in a blog post last week that Google had made changes to keep stories that contain significant original reporting higher in search rankings anymore. It had also changed guidelines for around 10,000 human raters who were responsible for checking the work of the algorithms, to give greater prominence to news sites with a reputation for producing high quality journalism and with industry awards such as the Pulitzer Prize.

We have long argued that provenance must be a priority, and then any change that applauds the qualitative difference in journalism and ends content-codification of content is applauded, "

News Corp

CEO

Robert Thomson

said it in a statement. "We will closely monitor these changes in the algorithm and trust that the promised reforms are truly happening."

News Corp, the magazine's parent company, has developed a partially aggregated news aggregation service called Knewz.com to promote original reporting on rapid switching of existing articles.

Google's change in rating guidelines has raised concerns among conservative publishers who have long argued that large platforms have a liberal bias that leads them to unfairly downgrade right-handed articles.

"I'm happy about this if they implement it fairly," he said

Neil Patel,

co-founder and publisher of Daily Caller. "But with Google, there's always been a lot of opacity about how they run their algorithms, and the concern is that there will be a similar lack of transparency about how they define who they believe is a respected publisher."

Facebook has offered news outlets as much as $ 3 million a year in licensing fees to use headlines and preview articles in a special news section it aims to launch later this year, the magazine reported last month. The social media platform has offered some smaller, regional publishers fees in the region of $ 500,000 annually, said a person familiar with the matter.

News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and BuzzFeed Chief Executive

Jonah Peretti

have both encouraged Facebook and Google to pay for quality news organizations.

"Those of us who do a lot of original reporting are excited about Google fixing this frustrating bug, but we're still waiting for Google and some other platforms to follow Facebook's leadership in recognizing the real value they derive from our original journalism, "so

Ben Smith,

BuzzFeed's chief editor.

Earlier this year, Apple announced a partnership with more than 300 magazines and several digital media and newspapers, including the Journal, for a $ 9.99 monthly bundle called Apple News +. As part of the deal, publishers would share 50% of revenue based on readership for their stories.

Write to Lukas I. Alpert at lukas.alpert@wsj.com

Copyright © 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


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