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Google, Facebook and New Zealand news media: the problem of platform dependency

A report prepared for The Policy Observatory, Auckland University of Technology
News media Digital news Journalism Social media Google New Zealand
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apo-nid197191.pdf 1.02 MB

This is a report about power imbalances in digital media markets. It confirms that Google dominates New Zealand digital advertising. It also reveals that on average search engines and social media drive 53 percent of news websites’ traffic. Additionally, Facebook is the third largest news consumption platform in New Zealand (NERA Economic Consulting, 2016). It is clear that platforms and news companies are mutually dependent, but what makes this relationship problematic is that news companies are failing to monetise the traffic and attention they gain on platforms; this risks destroying their business model and raises questions about how content is to be funded.

Key findings:

  • Facebook user and revenue growth is strong in Asia-Pacific
  • Search, such as Google, controls 60% of New Zealand digital advertising spend while social, such as Facebook, makes up only 6%
  • Facebook’s share of news consumption is 15%
  • Over 53% of news sites’ traffic is from search and social media sources
  • On average, the news companies in this study post 10 pieces of content per day on Facebook
  • News is only 5% of the content share on Facebook overall
  • Stuff’s Neighbourly is now the third most popular social media site

In this context it would be wise for New Zealand authorities to at least examine how search engines and social media platforms shape digital media markets and the local journalism ecosystem, especially when platforms have not invested in any specific journalism projects in New Zealand. Before considering taxes, levies or forms of regulation for platforms, authorities should have a clear picture of the ‘platform problem’, and what measures may best support local journalism and media sustainability. As Fairfax Media (Australia) has warned (2018), regulation can have unintended consequences if not properly considered.

This report offers insight into relations between New Zealand media companies and Facebook and Google. These two are regarded as platforms because they enable intermediation between different user groups, such as Facebook users and news content providers.

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