Fake news, it’s just gossip…
Really is anyone surprised to find that if you enable people to publish and share what they like online, via Facebook, Google, Twitter, Word.Press – the list is long…some of it is complete tosh. Publishing it and sharing it does not make it credible.
If my car broke down I wouldn’t leave it in the street with a note on it saying “Please mend for free.”
News is the same. You get what you pay for.
But the investment in news, media and quality journalism is a big one. And always there is commercial conflict between integrity of news and selling advertising space. Without advert sales and paid for subscriptions whether via a ‘pay-wall’ or not; print costs and news quite simply can not be funded.
So just exactly how do the figures stack up for UK news groups?
The Economist Group is a limited company made up of famous brands such as: The Economist and EuroFinance. The Group has three types of share ownership, including trust shares and special shares. This means that the integrity of how the Group operates and the quality of its news reporting is protected by the structure and ownership of the company. In fact over 43% of the Group is made up of special shares and trust shares, meaning that integrity is a core value.
The Guardian Media Group (GMG) parent company for the Guardian and the Observer newspapers; is also trust owned at around 50.1%. GMG reported losses of £62.6m last financial year (2015-16) the majority of which funded the trust ownership of newspaper. As quoted in the GMG financial statement: ‘The sole purpose [of this type of funding] is to secure the editorial independence and financial security of the Guardian in perpetuity.’
Whereas if we look at Facebook it had total assets of $64.96m at 2016 year-end, and total liabilities including stockholder equity, at $5.77m. Google on the other hand made $111,649.51m in total revenue at 2016 year-end with a gross profit of $68,275m.
Hmmm… this points to the money being in advertising, and if all you have to do as a publishing platform owner is – well erhh – publish then the outcome is lucrative. Thankfully both advertising platform owners are now taking steps to block fake news, and Facebook is piloting news feeds that contain interest and industry related news only, the feeds will not contain news updates from friends.
As to Twitter let’s hope it gets acquired by a trust or by a foundation, so that it can continue its heritage as a news micro-blog publisher and retain Wikipedia (or Wikimedia Foundation) credibility. For businesses and thinking people everywhere the lesson is to check the source of the news first, unless it comes from a trusted brand.