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Google and Meta's News Changes Impact Publishers and Highlight Distribution Challenges

Google tests removing California news links in response to payment law, impacting publisher visibility and revenue.

By Athena Xu

4/12, 20:23 EDT
Alphabet Inc.
Meta Platforms, Inc.
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Key Takeaway

  • Google to temporarily remove links to California news sites for some users in response to the CJPA, affecting its investment in local news.
  • Meta is scaling back on news content, impacting publishers' traffic and ad revenue, with Mother Jones reporting a 99% traffic drop from Facebook.
  • These moves by Google and Meta underscore the challenges for publishers relying on social media for distribution and highlight the need for diversified strategies.

Google's Response to CJPA

Google has initiated a plan to temporarily remove links to California news websites for a select group of users within the state. This action is a direct response to the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), proposed legislation that would require online advertising companies, like Google, to pay fees for linking users to news sources. Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s Vice President of Global News Partnerships, expressed concerns in a blog post, stating that the bill introduces "a level of business uncertainty that no company could accept." Google's experiment, described as a "short-term test," aims to assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its operations. Concurrently, Google has paused further investments in the California news ecosystem, affecting new partnerships through Google News Showcase and planned expansions of the Google News Initiative.

Meta's Shift Away from News

Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook, is also making significant changes to its approach to news content. The company has been reducing its involvement in the news business, impacting publishers that have traditionally relied on social media platforms for traffic and advertising revenue. Meta's decision to phase out its Facebook News tab in several European countries and to prohibit Canadian users from sharing news on its apps reflects a broader strategy to realign its investments towards products and services that are most valued by its users. This retreat from news distribution comes amid broader discussions about the role of social media in disseminating news and information.

Impact on Publishers

The actions taken by Google and Meta have profound implications for news publishers. The reduction in visibility on these platforms poses significant challenges, particularly for publications that depend on social media for audience engagement and advertising revenue. For instance, Mother Jones reported a 99% decrease in traffic from Facebook, highlighting the dramatic impact of Meta's policy changes on publishers' ability to reach audiences. The overall decline in social traffic from platforms like Facebook to news and media websites has forced publishers to explore alternative distribution strategies, emphasizing the need for diversification beyond social media to maintain visibility and engagement.

Street Views

  • Jaffer Zaidi, Google (Neutral on the California Journalism Preservation Act):

    "The bill, known as the California Journalism Preservation Act, would create a level of business uncertainty that no company could accept... To avoid an outcome where all parties lose and the California news industry is left worse off, we urge lawmakers to take a different approach."