Google fires back as ACCC code of conduct talks ramp up

Other publishers want the code to govern how much a publisher should be paid, but sources said all discussions are in the early stages.

Ms Silva said that news content had “significant social value”, but that Google did not make money from organic search results or news that appears in the ‘News’ tab. She said publishers benefit by appearing in Google search results.

“In the offline print world, publishers have long paid retailers, news stands and kiosks to distribute their newspapers and magazines – acknowledging the value of acquiring audiences to a publisher’s content and the advertising publishers sell alongside it,” Ms Silva said.

“In contrast, Google Search sends readers from Australia and all over the world to the publishers’ sites for free – helping them to generate advertising revenues from those audiences and convert them into paying subscribers. Everyone benefits from this exchange. While news content has significant social value, it is often difficult to make money from.”

Ms Silva added Google Search did not make “any money” when a user clicks on a news search result and that there were no ads on its news results tab.

“From Google’s perspective, the news publishers aren’t their customers and the news referral that comes via their search results … that’s not a service that they perceive as being a separate service and they certainly don’t perceive it as a supply that occurs in any kind of economic market,” said Ms Marshall, a specialist in competition and defamation law.

“The bottom line is the power these guys have to switch off the news referrals. That’s why they’ve got what we now call an imbalance in bargaining power. The solution to that is to tell them they have to [provide news referral services] by law.”

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