Google made a cool US$ 4.7 billion in revenue from news in 2018

Monopolizing the digital news business


The last half a decade or so has been tough for the newspaper and media industry, both globally and in India. The newspaper industry is going through tough times with declining demand for physical format and news publishers are struggling to devise a sustainable revenue model for their digital venture. Amidst all this, a new study has found that internet giant Google has made a whopping US$ 4.7 billion in revenue in 2018 from crawling and scraping news publishers’ content – without paying the publishers for that use.

New Media Alliance published findings from a new study that analyzes how Google uses and benefits from news. Among the major findings of the study is that news is a key source on which Google has increasingly relied to drive consumer engagement with its products. The amount of news in Google search results ranges from 16 to 40%, according to the study.

The study, containing analysis conducted by experts at strategy and economics consulting firm Keystone Strategy and written by the News Media Alliance, includes a qualitative overview of Google’s usage of news content, an analysis of the amount of news content on Google Search and Google News, and an estimate of revenue Google receives from news.

David Chavern, president and chief executive officer of News Media Alliance said, “News publishers need to continue to invest in quality journalism, and they can’t do that if the platforms take what they want without paying for it. Information wants to be free, but reporters need to get paid.”

News Media Alliance believes that the figures in the study are conservative estimates of the revenue Google makes through its use of news content. The actual value of news content to Google is more difficult to quantify because of the various ways the company uses news content to drive traffic, develop its products and entrench its dominant position, according to the study. In addition to using news content for product development, such as training its artificial intelligence services, Google is tailoring its products – ramping up its use of news – to keep users in the Google ecosystem.

According to the study, since January 2017, traffic from Google Search to news publisher sites has risen by more than 25% to approximately 1.6 billion visits per week in January 2018. Corresponding with consumers’ shift toward Google for news consumption, news is becoming increasingly important to Google.

“The findings clearly point to Google responding to an increase in consumers searching for news, creating and tailoring products that keep users within its ecosystem. This means more money goes back to Google and not the publishers producing the content,” Chavern stated.

Google’s news products also allow it to capture valuable user data that help it improve its core services. According to the report, in 2018, the number of unique monthly visitors in the U.S. to Google News eclipsed that of top news websites such as The New York Times, CNN and Huffington Post.

“We have called for legislation that would provide a limited safe harbor for news publishers to be able to collectively negotiate for better terms with platforms such as Google and Facebook,” Chavern said. “This is the only solution to correcting the current marketplace imbalance, which allows the platforms to dominate the web and related advertising infrastructure, as well as control who sees publishers’ content and when.”

A bill that would accomplish this – The Journalism Competition & Preservation Act – has been introduced in the House and in the Senate.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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  1. I have read several comments in various blogs that are questioning this figure of US4.7 billion which is a kind of a rough guesstimate. While the figure has caught the eye of the press as a large rip-off of journalist and publisher’s effort, the industry will have to figure out a better way of getting Google to help it beyond driving traffic to its content and making money for Google. On the one hand each player is trying to out-traffic the other and get more of out of google in the way of analytics and ad revenue of their own, and on the on the other it cannot figure out what to do – whether to put up paywalls for its own content or not.

    While in the developed markets paywalls of all kinds are rising, there is very little happening on paywalls in India. Business Standard, The Hindu and The Business Line have put up some types of paywalls and activated their ePapers for digital subscription revenue. So have Caravan and The Ken but all reluctant to discuss their numbers at this point. IppStar has been trying to do a paywall survey of Indian publications but so far they are very reluctant to talk let alone share numbers. This digital transition is going to be painful until we crack it and learn to enjoy it. Surely it needs a new mindset.


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