BY Wesley Diphoko 3 MINUTE READ

The global tech industry has been eating the lunch of the media industry. In response, the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) has submitted a paper to the Competition Commission to outline its concerns. In the paper, SANEF makes some recommendations about what can be done to address the use of media industry content by tech giants without paying fairly for it. Recommendations by SANEF emanate from the view that the media industry is owed something and therefore it needs compensation. The paper also goes on to recommend additional ways of supporting the media industry. The challenge is that its recommendations fall short of dealing with the main issues that are the cause of challenges faced by the media industry in the tech driven world.

The media industry has given up its power by allowing global big tech to become the distributor of its own content. The media industry was once powerful partly because most media entities owned printing presses. The industry needs to go back to owning its own infrastructure instead of relying on global tech companies. It’s important for the industry to understand that pursuing payments by tech giants will not be a sustainable solution. There’s great likelihood that tech may agree to pay for now and later change their business models to avoid paying for news. We are already witnessing a move towards using less content from media entities.

Facebook newsfeed will not be with us for a very long time. The change by Facebook to become Meta is also another great indicator that there’s a move away from relying content on from media entities. When Meta changes Facebook into a metaverse type environment there will be no need to use content from media companies.

The combination of these efforts tells us that tech giants will not use media content for a very long time. It’s also interesting to note that tech giants are becoming media entities without carrying the regulatory burden of being a media entity. All of these factors should be taken into account by the media industry as they sharpen their swords in their fight with global tech giants. The media industry needs to grab the bull by the horn and innovate extensively.

A product like Twitter should have been hatched by a media company.

The media industry needs to create structures that will enable the survival of the media industry. The industry should build and own the entire tech stack if peace is to prevail.

The media industry should no longer rely on the tech industry for content management systems, advertising platforms and education of media professionals.

Granted, this cannot happen without a collaboration between media entities. The costs and skills required to build quality tech platforms are too expensive for a single media entity to carry as infrastructure. The ideal option would be collaboration on non-competitive areas of the industry. Media entities can compete on content and should not be competing based on systems they use to produce, manage and distribute content. The media industry needs to immediately do something about the platforms it uses to measure performance and to earn revenue. As long as media tools are owned by the tech industry, the media industry will forever be begging the tech industry for co-operation.

The Competition Commission will do little to assist the media industry to fight its battles with global tech entities. There are no laws that can be formed against the tech industry that can be strong enough to address current challenges. The tech industry will always find a way to innovate against its hurdles.

The media needs to innovate its way out of the current challenge. An effective strategy will require a collaboration in the media industry. This may take a form of a tech giant created by the media industry specifically to respond to global tech giants with tech built for the media industry. The SANEF Paper concludes with the words below which acknowledges that the industry is just farting against thunder:

“this Position Paper has noted that the dominance of larger technology platforms in the digital economy has had negative consequences for public interest journalism for a range of reasons, not least on news publishers. In particular, news publishers are unable to compete with these platforms’ capacity to sell micro-targeted advertising that draws on the large-scale collection of personal data about their billion-strong audiences of users. Efforts that seek to subsidise news publishers rather than address these structural issues are, therefore, merely a blunt tool that risks creating negative externalities”.

To safeguard public interest journalism the media industry needs to beat tech in its own game with journalism principles and values embedded in the solution.