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Hurdles for media alliance in Facebook, Google fight

American publishers have combined to form an alliance to push back against tech giants Facebook and Google, which have devoured revenues and adversely impacted the quality of journalism while aggregating their content.

The US News Media Alliance brings together competitive mastheads The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post alongside regional and community titles. The publishers argue that the digital media duopoly is negatively affecting news media, maintaining that the action is about the “the endurance of quality journalism”.

However, the group faces legal hurdles. To move forward, the alliance would need permission to represent publishers as a group. This concession is not common, and will be especially difficult to obtain when faced with an anti-press government. The group also faces resistance in the country’s anti-trust laws.

“The product at issue is important from a public policy perspective – we’re not just talking about widgets, we’re talking about news, and news is crucial for a democratic society,” said the alliance’s outside counsel, Jonathan Kanter.

While publishers gain greater reach to audiences through Facebook and Google, this is not reflected in monetary value.

Despite both digital companies saying they have reworked their algorithms to make legitimate news sources more prevalent, publishers believe more can be done.

News Corporation chief executive Robert Thomson blasted Google in June for its preferential treatment of partnered content.

“There is a contradiction between the claimed sophistication of Google’s ability to target audiences and track taste for advertisers and its inability to identify the tasteless, the terroristic, the perverted and the pirated,” he said.

The comments followed the News-owned title The Wall Street Journal having its content demoted in the Google news service following its withdrawal from the “first click free program”. 

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