A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Oliver Darcy emails: It’s officially underway. The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday kicked off its antitrust probe into Big Tech with a look at how companies like Facebook and Google have hurt news organizations while simultaneously allowing for the spread of misinformation. Rep. David Cicilline, who led the hearing, described it as “the first significant antitrust investigation undertaken by Congress in decades.”
And if Tuesday’s hearing was any indication, it will operate in a bipartisan fashion. Over the course of the three hours, both Republicans and Democrats seemed to relish taking Big Tech to task…
“If online news publishers can’t survive, then who can?”
Darcy emails: Cicilline made an important point at the hearing, noting that “massive cuts” have taken place in recent years not only at “traditional news companies” but also at “online news sources.” Cicilline then said, “This raises a critical question: if online news publishers can’t survive, then who can?”
That point was echoed by News Corp’s David Pitofsky, who said, “Many in Silicon Valley dismiss the press as old media, failing to evolve in the face of online competition.” Explaining that “this is wrong,” Pitofsky said “online platforms are placing news organizations under siege through massive free-riding.”
Increased readership ≠ increased revenue
An Phung emails: AJC editor Kevin Riley summed up the problem in a way that makes the tension between the tech platforms and local journalism palpable. “We have more people reading the Atlanta Journal-Constitution than at any other point in our history,” Riley said. “The challenge here is simple, which is, in what kind of world do you grow your audience, reach a bigger market and somehow face even greater financial challenges than you did before?”
Missing: Tech execs!
An adds: Unfortunately, no one from Big Tech was present to answer any Q’s. The omission was glaring. Riley along with others made their case in front of a panel of sympathetic lawmakers who appeared as if they have already made up their mind about Silicon Valley…
>> Google’s Richard Gringas did release a statement, however: “We’ve worked for many years to be a collaborative and supportive technology and advertising partner to the news industry, as it’s worked to adapt to the new economics of the internet. Every month Google News and Google Search drive over 10 billion clicks to publishers’ websites…”
“Who will pay for the news?”
This is the focus of a brand new report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The researchers found that “most people would not pay for online news and that there had been only a small increase in the proportion of people willing to do so in the last six years. Even among those who do pay, there is ‘subscription fatigue’ — many are tired of being asked to pay for so many different subscriptions.”
Here’s the full report. And here’s Laura Hazard Owen’s takeaway for NiemanLab: “Even people who LIKE paying for news usually only pay for one subscription…”
Read more of Tuesday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…
Mary Meeker’s 333 slides!
Christmas in June for geeks: Mary Meeker shared her annual Internet Trends Report slide deck at the Code Conference on Tuesday. Recode’s Rani Molla summed up some of the highlights here, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to carve out time to skip through the slides.
>> One of the takeaways, via Axios: “In the developed world, citizens are increasingly looking for ways to dial back, while billions elsewhere are still waiting on consistent internet access…”
>> Joshua Benton’s reaction piece for NiemanLab: “The scariest chart in Mary Meeker’s slide deck for newspapers has gotten even a wee bit scarier…”
>> Up and up and up: “Americans are spending more time with digital media than ever: 6.3 hours a day in 2018, up 7 percent from the year before…”
Sulzberger: Idea of Trump bump is “overblown”
Oliver Darcy emails: Speaking with Peter Kafka at Code Conference, A.G. Sulzberger acknowledged that a so-called “Trump bump” helped the NYT, but said it was also exaggerated. “I think the Trump bump stuff — it was real,” said Sulzberger. “But I also think it’s also overblown.” He said that months after Trump was sworn into office, the newspaper “saw signs of that petering off really dramatically,” noting that there has been “all sorts of indication that people are really tired of reading about presidential politics.” Sulzberger added, “So we actually saw readership of political coverage decline.”
>> Related: Sulzberger talked with Kafka about a number of other things at Code Conference, including his views on Trump’s “enemy of the people” rhetoric. You can watch the full interview here…
>> Also at Code: From Kafka’s interview with Paula Kerger: “Apple’s attempts to limit data sharing on kids’ apps is negatively impacting PBS”