The News Media Association has called on the Government to protect news publishers who are investing in original online journalism from those who capitalise on the content without sharing the expense.
In a briefing to ministers, the news publishers’ association detailed what it saw as the threat to news media organisations from ad-blocking and the industry’s “relationship” with digital giants Facebook and Google.
The NMA said the existing model was “not sustainable”, adding: “The value chain of digital news has become wildly out of step with the contribution that each player makes”.
“Significant value is being captured by companies who do not invest in original journalism at the expense of those who do,” it said.
According to figures from the Advertising Association, the “internet” took 43 per cent of the overall UK ad spend last year, up 17.3 per cent year-on-year, while the share of this going to newspapers and magazines declined.
In July, Press Gazette reported that Facebook had taken $5bn in advertising revenue within three months.
In its briefing, sent as the UK prepares to leave the European Union, the the NMA highlighted the news media’s role as a creator of “highly sought after news content” which “can be counted on to provide the subject matter of the country’s democratic conversation”.
It added: “The online news environment is characterised by aggregation of news stories by third party players who repackage, serve, link to and monetise that content.
“In particular, Google dominates these activities in search and Facebook dominates in social.
“There are potential benefits for news publishers in working with them, not least in terms of reaching new audiences. However, the situation is far from win-win and significant value is being captured by companies who do not invest in original journalism at the expense of those who do.
“The costs of producing quality journalism are substantial and remain with news publishers.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to meet these costs, partly because of the lower value of digital advertising compared to print, but also because of the diversion of advertising spend from publishers towards aggregators.
“Attempts to achieve sustainability in this difficult environment are also being undermined by the restrictive practices imposed by the most powerful online platforms and by the rise of ad-blocking outfits, who in their own way are part of the scramble to generate ad revenues from content to which they have made no contribution.
“If the viability of independent news production comes under pressure, it will not just be a headache for news publishers. The impact on media plurality and the functioning of democracy will be profound.
“Independent news publishing accounts for two-thirds of the total spend on news provision in the UK. Every day, the UK’s newspapers – digital and print- can be counted on to provide the subject matter of the country’s democratic conversation.
“However they can only survive if the relationship between rewards for producing journalism is commensurate with costs.”