News costs money, not having it may cost Google everything

When I was a journalist, media was elementary. Binary. If you didn’t have the best front page, millions of paying readers missed the scoop their money deserved. The pressure was intimidating and taught me the concept of survival of the fittest. Moaning just didn’t cut it.

Later, I was news editor with a global team and the most-read front page on the planet. I rubbed shoulders with smart, uncompromising editors, whose names and reputations were indelibly linked to their papers’ century-old brands. Together, we toiled under a shared anxiety for ever-bigger scoops.

Over this past decade, the Fourth Estate has been battered. Relentless attacks from Google and Facebook, hiding behind Section 230, have left their mark. Fighting a one-sided battle has left the once-proud lion resembling an injured gazelle.

We are seeing the consequences. A collapse in public trust, the rise of fake news, political polarisation, hate speech and intolerance, clickbait and collapsing CPMs. These are symptoms of a neutered media, caused by the unchecked rise of Google and Facebook.
Now this is changing. Scales have been removed from our eyes and we are in the dawn of a media revival, driven by the unerring human values of trust, brand and truth. Facebook’s tech perspective doesn’t care, and it will be history that will judge them, but Google knows it, and let me tell you why.

When I first wrote a version of this article in 2017, I proposed a plan. It was before Cambridge Analytica, before we knew the shocking extent of Facebook’s data abuses, before YouTube’s paedophilia rings, Google’s sex scandals and billion-dollar global advertiser boycotts.

We had created Oovvuu a few years earlier to help journalism by partnering broadcasters and publishers to put a relevant video in every article in the world. Every broadcaster was handpicked as a trusted source. Every publisher too. Together, we would create a new, video-led way of reporting the news, and create trust on a scale that would rival the duopoly.

Once achieved, we would use it to repatriate billions from Facebook and Google back to the journalists and broadcasters reporting the world.

We went public in a keynote at The International News Media Association, announcing 100 broadcasters had joined our mission, providing feeds of breaking news video and long form programming to publishers. $2 billion of constantly-updating news video for free on a revenue share, available to any trusted publisher via a simple-to-use, one-touch technology.

Partners included the BBC, Bloomberg, The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Presse, PBS, Deutsche Welle, ITN, Euronews, Press Association, Canadian Press, AAP, Techcrunch, The Guardian, Sports News TV, ABC Australia, Africa, Eyewitness News, NDTV India, TRT Turkey, VPRO Holland, Australia’s ABC and SBS and many more.

Publishers there to listen included The New York Times, Schibsted, The Guardian, News Corp, The Irish Times, Trinity Mirror, Sanoma, RussMedia, Mail Online, The FT, Axel Springer, The UK Telegraph, Archant, Newsquest, Newsweek.

At the time, the media industry resembled two elephants in a sea of ants. The New York Times and Guardian were vanishingly small in comparison to the duopoly, yet just the top 26 publishers working together had a larger audience than Facebook. What to do?
Oovvuu set out to mobilise the media industry to work together to create a new elephant, this time based on truth, brand and trust. Two years on, we are gaining traction.

Many of the world’s largest publishers have since joined, and we are in contract negotiations with more than 100 more through our offices in London, New York, Singapore, Mumbai, Cape Town and Istanbul.

Our tech has also transformed. We launched Compass, a tool that embeds in reporters’ workflows that can read articles, watch videos and match them together in less than a second. It has impressed IBM Watson and Amazon, who both now fund us.

People in 143 countries now benefit from breaking news video they could not previously access. News articles are being enhanced, publishers have access to the video they need and broadcasters are distributing to new markets in an instant.

More videos are going in more articles more quickly, and more than 250 journalists are training Compass to make better recommendations every hour and every day. We call this Loop, and we will reveal more about this in the coming months.

We have become a poster child for machine learning, invited to speak at the largest conferences in the world.

The world has also learned what Facebook is all about. The truth was revealed by six devastating exposes in The Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Wired and Der Spiegel. Billions have been wiped off its value, Zuckerberg has terrified the world with robotic apologies to the US Congress, and demands for anti-trust action to break them up are gaining momentum worldwide.

The likelihood of which, Dina Srinivasan, entrepreneur turned anti-trust specialist told the Digiday podcast, is “imminent and very high. The market is spewing out warped outcomes and tweaks at 10,000ft need to be made”.

Facebook will continue to make money, but it has been exposed. The halo has tilted and now it’s just another company.

Facebook’s woes have been a heat shield for Google, which does all the same things on a far bigger scale. YouTube has taken some hits, and responded with the usual empty apologies and promises, but Google as a whole is just six headlines from the same fate and Mountain View is worried, as it should be.

I know this personally because they are reaching out to me, and media bosses I work with across the world, asking what they should do.

This creates a point in time opportunity for the media, Google and the world, and it starts with maths. Google is good at maths.

A billion people watch news video daily. Typically, they watch two videos each a day. Non-Oovvuu publishers only have video in seven per cent of their articles, Oovvuu increases it to 50 per cent.

The outcome is a billion viewers watching 60 billion video streams on trusted news brands every month. All of them validated as brand safe, viewed by engaged audiences, from trusted broadcasters, within reliable publisher environments. At a US$20 CPM, that volume generates US$1.2 billion-a-month.

Google wrote $42 billion in ad revenue in 2018. Facebook earned a further US$34 billion. One in every four dollars came from video, and eMarketer says it be one in three soon, so, shifting $14.4 billion to publishers and broadcasters for reporting the news in video is entirely equitable and reasonable.

That sum is sufficient to end the scourge of fake news, reboot the media earnings, make truth and information free and distributed, and it is in the best interests of Google to help as the anti-trust clouds gather.
There is nothing safer than a BBC video in a New York Times article. The world needs trust to enjoy societal stability. Media is a mission, technology is just the tool. Brands and agencies hurt by the scandals of the past two years also know they need brand safe content and engaged audiences at scale. The world is now ready to provide this.

Google, if you are not Facebook, now is the time to show it, and you need to do that with actions, not words. So, are you going to help?