Another perspective: How newspapers face a dilemma that any farmer can relate to, and what can be done

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Farmers and ranchers sometimes need to remind people that the food on their tables ultimately comes from farms and ranches, not grocery stores, where it is carefully packaged for consumers.

But most of the profits from that box of cereal or cake mix go to food processors, not farmers.

Something similar is at work in the news industry. It is now common for people to say, without thinking about it, “I get my news online”.

That is true. Almost 90% of Americans get information from a smartphone, computer or tablet. But the news is not “cultivated” by Facebook or Google – it comes from journalists and it is originally published by newspapers.

Yet in today’s media landscape, platforms like Google and Facebook capture most of the economic value that comes from newsrooms. They get the vast majority of the advertising revenue that was the lifeblood of newspapers.

Online giants like Facebook and Google do nothing to cover the news in places like Rochester or Brainerd or Willmar or Bemidji. Newspapers like the Rochester Post-Bulletin, Brainerd Dispatch, West Central Tribune, and Bemidji Pioneer do this big job.

These newspapers cover the local school board, city government, high school and college sports teams, and state houses.

But the business model that supports this labor-intensive collection and dissemination of information is collapsing due to the internet and the market influence of Facebook and Google – a pair sometimes referred to as “Digital advertising duopoly”.

Individually, there is no way that newspapers can exercise enough economic clout to negotiate effectively with online giants to keep their operations viable – vital to maintaining the flow of information that fuels the minds of companies. consumers.

There is something that might help. The Competition and Preservation of Journalism Act that has been presented to Congress would give news outlets the ability to negotiate on an equal footing with big tech companies.

It’s a bipartisan effort and one of the main sponsors of the bill is Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. The law recognizes that the public loses out when newsrooms are forced to downsize – or have to stop publishing, leaving important new discoveries.

The siphoning of advertising dollars from giant online platforms is a major cause of the financial distress plaguing newspapers. The Competition and Preservation of Journalism Act addresses this glaring imbalance by providing a “safe harbor” against antitrust laws so that publishers can team up to negotiate with Facebook and Google.

It provides a 48-month period for companies to negotiate a level playing field that would allow publishers to reimburse subscriptions and ads. At the same time, it would protect and preserve Americans’ access to the information they need to inform their lives.

The law requires that negotiations be strictly for the benefit of Americans and publishers in general, not just one or a few publishers.

You can help by continuing to subscribe to your newspaper, whether print or online, and by telling your members of Congress to help keep the “growth” of local news by supporting competition law and competition. preservation of journalism.

This alternative view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Fargo-Moorhead Forum.


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