Pay up -- or we’re pulling the plug.

That’s the approach the news industry should take when it comes to Google and Facebook: Pay for our journalism or we’re banning it from your platforms.

For too long, journalists have given away their stories for free in exchange for distribution by the duopoly. At best, a story may go viral (rare) or hit the SEO lottery and experience a one-off traffic surge (unsustainable).

And for that, newsrooms have willingly handed over billions of dollars in ad revenue to the tech giants that threaten their very existence. (Google and Facebook are No. 1 and No. 2 ad platforms in the U.S., respectively).

The news industry as a whole needs to come together and demand to be fairly compensated for their contributions. Until Facebook and Google agree to pay up, they are simply exploiting journalism under the pretext of democratizing information.

News drives habit. Habit drives frequency. And frequency drives time spent. In the attention economy (read: ad-driven), news content entices people to come back and stay in platforms’ carefully crafted ecosystems.

In short, platforms need news.

Mark Zuckerberg said it himself when Facebook launched its news tab in 2019 (its most recent olive branch to publishers). In a piece for the New York Times, the Facebook founder pledged to “support the news industry” and said that journalism today is “more important than ever.” But only some of the 200+ publishers involved in the news tab were actually paid for their contributions.  

These platforms are simply using their high-minded mission statements (e.g. Facebook: To “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” and Google: To “organize the world’s information”) as a thuggish pretext for exploiting journalism.

Instead, they should pay a licencing fee or provide a sizable cut of ad revenue to newsrooms that are populating the platforms (Murdoch analogized this to a carriage fee).  

It’s not enough for them to attempt damage control by spinning up funds claiming to help journalism or offering some – but not all – publishers fees for their contributions. (If you want to know how Google really feels about paying for news, see how they treated publishers in Spain).

That’s why we’re building Forth, a news-first platform that pays journalists for their work and offers the audience concise updates with context -- from the reporters they trust. All revenue generated on Forth is shared with our news partners.

We only allow trusted and credible journalists (vetted by our editorial team) to publish to the platform. It's a one-stop shop for accurate information about what's happening right now.  

It’s one thing for Facebook and Google to out-innovate a slow-to-adapt industry -- it’s another to profit off of the same industry's work with impunity.

Newsrooms should be mad as hell -- and they don’t have to take it anymore.

Let’s Go Forth,

-- Xana

Xana O'Neill is the Co-Founder of Forth, a platform for concise updates with context from the reporters you trust.