Ori Gold: Why Australia must stand up to the tech titans again

Ori Gold Bench Media Meta

Australia has a chance to solidify its role as a global leader in shaping the dynamics between tech giants and the news industry.

By Ori Gold, chief executive officer and founder of Bench Media

Remember the earthquakes felt in the media landscape when Meta flexed its muscles against the Australian government in 2021?

Back then, Australia’s swift and decisive action, demonstrated by the landmark News Media Bargaining Code, forced
the tech giant to the negotiation table and secured a historic $200 million win for Australian journalism (with $70M from Meta alone).

This pivotal moment set a global precedent that continues to resonate with, for example, the ongoing dispute between
Meta and the Canadian government.

Lessons from Canada: Why Australia Must Act Decisively

But fast forward to today, and we see a starkly different scenario unfold in Canada. Unlike Australia, which displayed remarkable resolve, Canada’s Online News Act has been met with fierce resistance from Meta, culminating in a complete news content blockade since February 2023. This drastic action, unlike the temporary one in Australia, has crippled Canadian news outlets, particularly smaller ones heavily reliant on social media reach.

While Canada grapples with the lack of a binding arbitration mechanism and a broader legislative approach compared to Australia’s focused model, the Australian case proves the effectiveness of decisive action.

Australia’s Leverage: Why Meta Can’t Afford to Leave

Meta’s complete withdrawal from Australia seems highly unlikely. Unlike countries like China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, etc., where government control dictates their absence, Australia’s strong democratic and open market principles hold significant strategic and financial value for Meta.

This makes an Australian exit highly improbable. The Australian News Media Bargaining Code, with its well-designed blend of incentives and penalties, successfully forced Meta to negotiate. This is a crucial lesson for Australian authorities – particularly the Communications Minister and the ACCC – as they encounter continued challenges from Meta.

Learning from Canada’s slow-moving approach, Australia must adopt a firm and swift bargaining stance again. Failure to do so might incentivise Meta to employ delay tactics, mimicking the Canadian scenario and ultimately weakening the impact of efforts to ensure fair compensation for news content.

Beyond Meta: Why Local Publishers Are Essential for Marketers

Australia has a chance to solidify its role as a global leader in shaping the dynamics between tech giants and the news industry. By drawing upon the lessons learned from both its own success and the ongoing Canadian struggle, Australia can pave the way for a more balanced and sustainable news ecosystem that empowers our thriving local publishers.

These publishers, with their strong relationships with Australian readers and their deep understanding of the local market, offer invaluable assets for Australian marketers. In the face of potential uncertainty with Meta, it’s crucial for businesses to diversify their marketing strategies and explore the extensive inventory offered by our local media outlets.

Today, if more than half of your paid media relies solely on Meta (and Google), it’s time to sound the alarm. By supporting local publishers, Australian businesses not only contribute to a healthy and diverse media landscape but also gain access to highly targeted audiences and effective communication channels, often offering superior quality engagement compared to what giant tech platforms can usually provide.

The time for decisive action is now, not just for the sake of a thriving journalistic landscape but for the future of Australian businesses and the communities they serve. By supporting local publishers, businesses not only contribute to a diverse media ecosystem but also unlock the potential for stronger connections and more impactful campaigns.

See also: Government and ACCC “considering options” after Meta’s decision to ditch news media deals

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