By now you have no doubt heard about the News Media Bargaining Code that is currently being referred by the Australian Senate to the Economics Legislation Committee for an inquiry and report that is due on the 12 February 2021. The main argument of discussion has been the possibility, if this bill is passed, to force tech giants such as Facebook and Google to pay for news sourced from local media organisations.
What is the news Media Bargaining Code?
The News Media Bargaining Code is intended to address the complaints from traditional media outlets that Google and Social Media platforms like Facebook benefit from the work of journalists and their news without receiving any compensation when featured on Google News and Google’s search results, or when they are shared on Facebook.
From their part, the two tech giants dispute that the same media outlets actually benefit from the visibility of their work and receive referral traffic and clicks through to their websites via Google and Facebook shares.
But whatever the reasons are, and as the discussion seems to be exacerbating, there is now a real threat that as a consequence of this, Google (and partially Facebook) might pull their services. In the case of Google, even going to the extreme of shutting down their search engine in Australia altogether.
And whilst Josh Frydenberg recently told Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, that the Australian Government won’t back down over the media bargaining code, and also that the Government was not intimidated by Google’s search engine threat, we as consumers make daily use of these services, and also as businesses that rely on these services to make a living, we are extremely concerned about the implications and consequences this might have on millions of Australians.
To us, it seems that no one has really thought about the impact to the wider community.
One thing for sure is that it will be very unlikely that our society will be better off without Google and Facebook, and for those that argue that the code will help to break a monopoly, we could argue back that it is likely that another company or service will fill the space and establish a similar position of dominance.
Small Businesses need Google
The truth is though, that the ones to pay the consequences of this move, will be the millions of Australian consumers and businesses that rely on the services provided by Facebook and Google every day to go on with their life, and the ones that make use of these services to run their businesses.
Yes, there are other search engines and social media platforms that could replace Google and Facebook, but potentially losing these services, which are literally ingrained in the daily life of millions of Australians, would have consequences of seismic level and reshuffle everything as we know it.
What will happen to those small, medium businesses and solopreneurs that have worked hard and invested their time, resources and money to be visible on the internet through Google and Facebook, so that they can be found and connect with their customers online?
How will they be able to generate business if tomorrow they would almost disappear online because there is no Google search engine?
What about those businesses which rely on Google’s non-paid listings in Google’s search results, or that can be found on Google Maps? Also, those that rely on the reviews on Google to vouch for the quality of their products and services?
What about the owner of a small local restaurant that has built his/her business taking the time to build an honourable reputation online with hundreds of good reviews on Facebook praising their food and customer service? Or the plumber that gets their business found on Google Maps when potential customers search for something like ‘plumber near me’?
How will it impact micro business?
But the same could be said of any of the thousands, perhaps millions of micro businesses that are the real connective tissue of Australia’s economy, and it is these people that could be wiped off the face of the internet if these changes are not properly considered.
Likewise, businesses of small and medium sizes will be likely to suffer from the same fate and be left stranded by a decision that yes needs to look at the interests of the traditional media outlets and compensate the work of journalists, but this shouldn’t leave the rest of Australia to pay for the consequences.
And lastly what about the industry we represent, and the thousands of consultants, and small independent digital marketing agencies like Ambire that have been founded to help those businesses grow and give them a chance online?
It’s fair to say everyone has had a difficult 2020 with the Global Pandemic. We’ve managed this superbly here in Australia, and now in 2021 many businesses are pushing to get back to some level of normal. Please don’t hit us again with this legislation that could set a precedent and leave many more normal hard-working Australians without jobs.
Please show your support today and help us by sharing #WeNeedGoogle.
This post first appeared on Flying Solo. You can read the original here
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