CHAPTER 13Big Tech Broke the News Media: What's Next?

The perfect storm that the media industry has been trapped in for many years now, in which technology's impact was just one blow among many, is well-documented. As summarized by Robert Picard,1 “mature and saturated markets, loss of audience not highly interested in news, the diminishing effectiveness of the mass media business model, the lingering effect of the economic crisis, and the impact of digital competitors have all taken a toll on news organizations. Compounding these factors are changes in technology and communication economics that are dismantling the traditional financial configurations that made Western media wealthy.”

The result has been catastrophic for responsible coverage, particularly of local and regional news. According to Pew Research, “From 2008 to 2019, overall newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 23%, according to the new analysis.”2 Europe is not much better. Journalism that holds leaders accountable—a cornerstone of democracy—is in peril.

But what probably isn't quite so widely understood is how ravenously Big Tech has feasted on the news media's carcass. According to a study by the News Media Alliance,3 a nonprofit trade association that represents more than 2,000 news organizations in the U.S. and globally, Google alone has profited to the tune of $4.7 billion—or “$4,700,000,000” as the New York Times coverage4 of the report emphasized—from the work of news publishers in 2018 via Google ...

Get Trampled by Unicorns now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.