Sep 14, 2019

Big Tech's 2020 news push

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are ramping up efforts to support news companies as they face pressure to elevate quality news and information ahead of the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Tech titans, particularly Google and Facebook, have been blamed for their role in spreading misinformation during the 2016 election that may have impacted voter turnout or results. They've also been blamed by publishers for cutting into media ad revenues.

Driving the news: Google says it has adjusted its algorithms and the guidelines used by the people that rate its searches to elevate original reporting in search results. It says it's doing more to help train search raters to reward high-quality reporting.

  • There have been multiple reports about Facebook investing millions to pay publishers to provide quality news content for its platform, both via its video tab "Watch" and on a tab dedicated specifically to news that will launch in the U.S. early next year. A new report suggests that it's hiring editors to help curate the tab.
  • Snapchat is creating a dedicated news channel specifically for the 2020 debates. The company is doing more to increase civic and political engagement on its platform as it readies a more aggressive push into news, sources tell Axios.

Yes, but: Snapchat didn't take much heat for fake news during the 2016 election, in part because it has heavily invested in journalists and editors to manage its news and content curation from the start.

  • "This is what happens when a platform actually has values around curation and news," Snapchat's political show host Peter Hamby tweeted in response to Axios' report about Snap's 2020 news push.

Between the lines: Despite the fact that Twitter often takes heat for the misinformation on its platform, it has largely avoided bad skirmishes with news publishers.

  • Publishers that work with Twitter say their partnerships, though smaller in scale than Google and Facebook, have been built to be more equitable and consistent long-term. Twitter takes a cut of ad revenue that publishers sell around their content on Twitter and vice-versa.

Be smart: News aggregation has become a big part of the online news business, thanks in part to the way publishers were rewarded by search and social media algorithms for delivering buzzy content, quickly. But tech companies have long tried to avoid hiring journalists to actually curate that news.

Our thought bubble: The public relations fallout from reports that fake news may have contributed to the surprise 2016 victory of Donald Trump spooked Big Tech, inspiring the companies to make fundamental changes in how they think about news ahead of the next election.

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Washington Post builds ad network for publishers to take on Big Tech

Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

The Washington Post on Tuesday will unveil Zeus Prime, a product that will allow companies to buy automated ads in real-time, similar to Big Tech platforms. Zeus will also support a new ad network that will include other publishers.

Why it matters: Advertisers often complain that they would like a better alternative to buying ads on Google and Facebook — where the content isn't always vetted — but there are no other places where they can buy ads as quickly and efficiently in real-time. The Post hopes this product will change that, and put more ad money in publishers' pockets.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Heading into Advertising Week, The ad market is healthy and is forecasted to grow slightly higher than expected during the second half of the year due to positive economic growth.

The big picture: It's still mostly controlled by Google and Facebook, and after years of trying to figure out how to take on the "duopoly," publishers have mostly resorted to the same thing they've been trying to do for years: team up.

Go deeperArrowSep 24, 2019

Rivals aim to document Facebook, Google strong-arming

Sarah Grillo / Axios

Smaller competitors to Google and Facebook that for years kept their legal grievances about the companies silent are beginning to speak up, as regulators crank up probes into anti-competitive behavior by the two Silicon Valley giants.

Why it matters: Many smaller tech companies once hesitated to call foul on Facebook and Google's dominance, fearful that doing so would make them look weak or unable to compete. Now that regulators are reaching out for information, more smaller rivals are stepping up.

Go deeperArrowSep 24, 2019