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The Business of Content

Jan 6, 2019

In 2017, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled “How Antitrust Undermines Press Freedom.” It was written by David Chavern, the head of the News Media Alliance, a trade group that represents over 2,000 publishers.

In it, he argues that Facebook and Google have effectively cornered the digital ad market, eating up all its growth, and that this has come at the expense of the very content creators that these two companies rely on, content creators Facebook and Google refuse to fairly compensate.

“The only way publishers can address this inexorable threat is by banding together,” wrote Chavern. “If they open a unified front to negotiate with Google and Facebook—pushing for stronger intellectual-property protections, better support for subscription models and a fair share of revenue and data—they could build a more sustainable future for the news business.”

Earlier this decade, several book publishers banned together to negotiate ebook prices with Apple in a direct effort to undermine Amazon’s command of the market, and they were slapped with a lawsuit from the Department of Justice for violating antitrust laws, hence why the News Media Alliance is seeking a special exemption.

But do publishers deserve one? And even if they do, would they be able to get such legislation passed through such a divided Congress? These are the questions I asked David Chavern for this week’s episode.