MY Newspaper Publishers Association pushes for 'joint efforts' as Google starts paying for quality content

Shortly after Google announced that it is paying publishers for high quality content as part of its licencing programme, Malaysian Newspaper Publishers Association's chairman Mustapha Kamil Mohd Janor, who is also CEO of New Straits Times Press, told A+M that more joint efforts should be explored so that both Google and publishers may reap full benefits within the news publishing industry. Nonetheless, the planned licencing programme is still welcomed news for the industry.

"Besides helping publishers monetise quality content, such an initiative will also help in widening the reach of Malaysian publishers as the potential for audience of news becomes more global in nature," he said. He also hopes that Google will ultimately widen its partnership in the programme and continue to jointly explore ways which will bring about a win-win situation for all stakeholders in the news industry.

Earlier this year, Mustapha sent the Malaysia Competition Commission a letter requesting Google and Facebook to share their revenue with local publishers. He previously explained that for the longest time, a source of potential income rests with digital platforms such as Google and Facebook, which have been using publishers’ content and generating revenue.

In April, the association sent the Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) a letter to have Google and Facebook share their revenue with publishers in the country. “While revenue from our digital publications are growing, it is still small by comparison. As such, an alternative and sustained income from our businesses has never been more important,” he said.

While the new licencing programme currently involves publishers in Australia, Germany and Brazil, Google's VP product management, news, Brad Bender, said in a blog post that it is in discussions with more partners and plan to sign more in the coming months. Bender added that where available, Google will also offer to pay for free access for users to read pay-walled articles on a publisher’s site. When asked if the licencing programme will be extended to publishers in Malaysia, Google Malaysia's spokesperson told A+M:

We want to see the reaction to the product and test our assumptions around the user and publisher value before going bigger.

The spokesperson added that while it is holding conversations with more publishers in around a half a dozen other countries, it has nothing further to announce at this time.

In April, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission drew up a mandatory code that will require digital platforms to pay for content they use. French magazine Marianne reported that the French Competition Authority ordered Google to conduct "negotiations in good faith" with news agencies and publishers regarding the renumeration of using their content.

Separately, when A+M reached out to Facebook to check if it will be launching a similar initiative, its spokesperson said it continues working with news organisations of all sizes to support a strong news ecosystem in the region.

"Facebook is committed to supporting journalism and we want to help news organizations as they adapt to the changing digital world. We believe news businesses should have sustainable revenue streams long term and we will continue to support the news industry and support in a number of ways," the spokesperson said. They include working with news publishers directly, running accelerator programs to support video production and reader revenue among other programmes. It also announced a US$2 million investment in grant funding, coaching and training to support Asia Pacific news organisations’ COVID-19 work. 

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