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Will Google pay up or abandon news content?

Google posted an open letter to Australians this week warning us of a new law that will harm the way we use search. Basically the ACCC has called them anti-competitive and is making them pay for news content. Now Google certainly is anti-competitive in some areas, just not this one. They can be a threat to small business, but we’ll cover that in our webinar.

What I learned

  • Why we should be alarmed at Google’s letter
  • News services have been rubbish for years
  • Why the ACCC is a toothless tiger
  • Google’s true anti-competitive practices
  • How to avoid being used by Google


Hey, welcome back Rankers! How you going? Stage four, what an interesting year. You may have seen this during the week, there’s been a little bit of press about it. If you use Google at all, it’s a search engine, you may have stumbled across this. Well, 95% of us have anyway. This is an open letter to Australians and Google is basically complaining about a new code of conduct that has been brought in by the ACCC which will force Google and Facebook to pay news sites for content. Stay with me.

Is the ACCC our protector?

So this is the open letter to Australians, right? And the thing that strikes me first, this is not my highlighting. The thing that just stands out is ‘at risk’ ‘search’ ‘hurting’, okay. Be alarmed everyone. Be very, very alarmed.
Now there’s a lot of things I’d like to complain to someone about Google. This ain’t one of them. This idea that we need to somehow give money to the news services because they’re rubbish and their model doesn’t work anymore. Hello, newspapers are dead. We said that in the nineties. Why are we still having these conversations? And there’s a whole bunch of reasons. And one of them ain’t Google. Google sends them traffic.

Now, Google is doing plenty of anti-competitive things, right? News? No. And we’ll get to those other things in a second, but let’s just have a look at this quality… ‘cause what the ACCC is saying is that we need to protect journalism in Australia. It’s essential for our democracy. It’s all these things that are so important. So this is the sort of stuff that we want to fund, that taxpayers’ money is being used to create a great big hammer to hit Google and Facebook over their head with.

Now don’t get me wrong, they’re monopolies and we’ll get to that. But have a look at this. This is a story this morning. I just grabbed at random. Calls for consequences for anti-vaxxers who refuse the coronavirus vaccine. Calls for consequences. Well, who’s called for that? Well, apparently it’s their own political editor that’s called for that, Mr. Mark Riley, and some other person who I’ve got no idea and has no context in the article is “the government can do something – maybe no jab, no JobKeeper or keep no jab no…” And this is their political editor suggesting this. So it’s a non-story they’ve made up to make it sound like there’s news. There’s not. This is journalism 2020, right? This is what we’re protecting.

Now you can say all you like about Google being anti-competitive. But as far as I’m concerned and I’ll probably never get another interview on Australian television or an Australian newspaper again because of the show. However, if I want to get the left viewpoint of something I’ll go and watch or listen or read that content. Cause I know where it is. Cause it’s really, really obvious because all the journalists are on Twitter now and they show their colours, whether they’re left or right. And most of them are partisan one way or the other. I haven’t seen that many nonpartisan journalists on Twitter. And if I want the right point of view, I know which magazine I’ll go and read. I know which television stations I should watch. But I stopped watching and consuming mainstream media news many years ago with the advent of the Internet. And it wasn’t because of Google. It’s just because there’s so much more quality content out there.

Now the stupidity of this code of conduct by the ACCC… In case you don’t know who the ACCC is, people from overseas, it’s the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. And they’re useless, basically. They’re a toothless tiger, an expensive show pony that does nothing except makes noises to make whoever the political party is in power, make them look good. It’s like we’re doing something. No, they’re not. They’re useless. If you followed my saga through trying to help Australian small businesses because of what the Australian domain name administrator was doing, you may recall I had a couple of interactions with the ACCC at the time. And one of the committees I was fighting against had an ACCC member on it, who was shouting me down. So I don’t consider them friendly to small business.

Google’s real anti-competitive behaviour

They brought out legislation in 2018 about fake reviews. That we can’t leave fake reviews on websites, on Google, on anywhere else, whether it be to make yourself look good or to make a competitor look bad. You’re not allowed to do it. And you could get fined. Now, as we know that’s rife, okay. That’s rife. Google does nothing about it. The ACCC says it’s illegal and they do nothing about it. When you ring up and ask them about fake reviews they say “Oh, well get a lawyer.” I mean, they don’t do anything, right. And they just spend our money doing this sort of stuff, funding their buddies because let’s face it to own a newspaper, television, radio station in this country you need a licence. You need to pay a large fee to government. You don’t need to do that for a website do you? No. So it’s protection money. They have a big stick to hit government over the head with. We’ve paid you all this money, protect us, protect our industries, or you’re not going to get these fees or your fees next year are going to be lower. And let’s face it. Politicians like a dollar. What are they going to do? They’re going to help them out. Simple as that. Cynical? Maybe. But I just look at what’s out there. You can read it yourself. You can see it yourself.

So, if you want to talk about anti-competitive behaviour with Google… Oh, let’s get to the ACCC. This is ridiculous, right? Providing advanced notice of changes to algorithmic ranking or presentation of news. Right? So what they’re saying is Google and Facebook have to provide advanced notice of changes to algorithmic ranking and presentation of news. They have to reveal their intellectual property.

Now I’ve got an awesome mate, Steve Sammartino. Love him to bits and we disagree on so many things. But that’s life, right? But we have great conversations and we like to tease things out. He’s on the other side of this. He thinks this is a good thing. I don’t. And we’ve tried to tease it out a little bit via Twitter, but it’s really not the place to do it.
But if you want to talk about anti-competitive behaviour by Google, you’ve just got to look at their advertising products. Don’t look at the media and the news. Half the links you click on in news in Google go to a pay wall. You can’t get in. You can’t actually get in to see anything. So this is apparently is what is damaging Australian journalism.

And if we go to ‘Tom Borody ivermectin kills covid’ let’s type that. News. Oh yeah, there’s the Herald Sun. Let’s have a look there. Oh no that’s not the Herald Sun. I’m looking for one of these but quite often you go to these… I don’t know why it’s not blocked today. Oh, there we go. Right. This apparently is somehow hurting News Limited. So News Limited put up a pay wall of a search I’ve just done. I can’t get to their content. And they’re saying Google needs to pay them for that content that I just clicked on. I would say to Google, you need to get that shit out of your index cause that’s a horrible experience for the user. And I think that’s what Google’s going to do. They’re not going to reveal their algorithm. They’re probably just going to boot news content and they can do it today. These news sites, these media organisations who are complaining about Google can just use a file called robots.text and put a forward slash up and say disallow Googlebot. Done. And Google won’t ever come and look at your content again.

They’re complaining about YouTube. This is the one that gets me. They’re complaining about YouTube. We should get a share of revenue out of YouTube. Why? No one’s forcing you to upload your videos to YouTube. You have to do that. Google is not crawling your site and grabbing your videos randomly and throwing them up there. If you want to complain about Google complain about their anti-competitive behaviour and advertising. Where they allow someone else to bid on your brand that you’ve spent years building, creating that asset. Someone else can just come in and bid on that. And you have to pay more for an asset that you’ve created. Or let’s just have a look at some of the featured snippets that are out there. Pulling in lyrics from sites and not giving them credit and showing them in the search results. They’re the things that are important. They’re the things that are anti-competitive. And that’s how the little guy’s getting screwed. And quite frankly, I don’t care about big old legacy media because even if I could get to this page, chances are when I got into it, a video would auto-play and it’d be a shit experience. And that is the situation with news sites in Australia. And they’ve been like that for 20 years and this ain’t going to help them.

Hopefully that’s helpful. Don’t forget we’ve got the webinar coming up soon. It’s going to be awesome. We’re going to learn about some of those advertising things and about those things that can threaten small business. And how you can manage Google or use Google, but don’t get used by Google. There is a very, very big difference. Hopefully that’s helpful. We’ll see you next week. Thanks very much. Bye.

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