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.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– 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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