May 30, 2023

Grand Forks TV

video for Grand Forks BC

Don’t Break the Web Please

Recently there’s been a push in this country to get the government to make some changes that will change things on the web in ways that may not be our best interests. (CBC Ottawa prepares to squeeze big U.S. tech firms over loss of revenue for Canadian news outlets) Specifically the idea that big internet companies such as Google and Facebook should pay some sort of linkage fee for every link to a news outlet . . . I’m very much against this. And I’ve penned a plea to the powers that be to not take this step. Instead of sending my plea to them I’m posting it here and I’ll send links to them instead.

I hear that the Canadian government is actually thinking about forcing Internet companies like Google to pay a link fee for their news aggregator to have links to online news sources. I’m sorry but I do not agree with this one bit

I have been using the Google news aggregator pretty much since it began. I like that it gives me an easy way to look at the same news item but from multiple news sources without me having to actually go and search out those news sources individually and then search for that item individually in each place. When you look at the amount of work involved in that versus just selecting one after another from an already curated list for you it’s pretty clear that without the aggregator I’d have to be very very interested in a particular news item to go through all those hoops.

Why would you think this would be a good thing?
Who would think this would be a good thing ?

I have heard that it’s primarily driven by the traditional print media who have rather large overheads and are still stuck with a revenue stream and a cost center tied to their print media business.

Will this help their business? I really don’t think so and here’s why .

Of all of the news outlets I read news items from, and there are quite a few, I only have two paid subscriptions. This change is unlikely to make me want to go and subscribe to other news organizations because I have a limited amount of money to spend on subscriptions and I suspect that the news organizations behind this will still end up having to put up paywalls but probably sooner than later because they will see the actual viewership numbers for content on their websites drop once this goes in. Just as it has in other places where this has happened.

I remember when this was talked about in Germany. Big publications didn’t like the idea that people could bypass their front page and go right to an article within their website. Without having to go through the front door and click a few times to find the content, all the time seeing advertising which would help pay for the site. If they (google) don’t give me a clear way to find that article on that site I won’t go to MOST of those sites to find it. And the way it is now, when I’m on a news site (that google has shown me to) and I’ve read that article I may see other things on that site that I want to read. I will actually browse around within their site and they will then garner ad revenue from that activity and we’ll both be happy. But if I don’t end up visiting their site at all they will miss out on all of that ad revenue that my visit might have generated for them because I won’t be visiting their site I’ll be restricting myself to the myself to the one or two page sites I go to and the small handful of free sites that I trust that I will go to and the rest of them they won’t see me one bit.

Google lets me search across all news sites for items or search terms or news articles that I request. Terms such as ‘missing person’, ‘election’, ‘stupid politician’ or ‘bad idea’. Without that aggregator and that ability I’m NOT going to spend a large part of my day trolling multiple news sites just to see if I can find out what they have to say on a given thing. I just won’t spend that time. And I’ll be less informed and less well informed as a result of it.

Google lets me set up email notifications so that whenever a search term appears in news items I get an email. Without the Google news aggregator I would have to set up this same kind of notification on multiple websites – if they even have that capability – if I wanted to know about what’s happening with developments in news and fields that I am interested in.

The Google news aggregator empowers me in ways I could only dream of long before the World Wide Web existed. I used to wish I was plugged into the news services like the newspapers with their teletype rooms knowing that unless I worked for a newspaper that would never happen.

Then the Google news aggregator came along and I didn’t have to buy any teletype machines and I’m plugged into virtually all the new sources out there. And you want to make that go away. Because that is what will happen if you force Google to start paying to provide a free service to everyone just so relics of the past that cannot adjust to the changing environment get to hold on for another couple of years before they’re forced to change or die.

What happens to a wants-to-be national news outlet with only a print background? When their viewer numbers go down it will impact their revenue. And without a TV channel or some other way to garner the attention of viewers / visitors outside the geographic area their print publication(s) cover it pushes them into being purely regional or local in their reach. That also means less revenue.

Just in case you think I have a completely one sided and biased POV on this I would like to point out that I have tried to run a local news site for my town and in the past I have angrily raged against Facebook for its practice of making it possible for people to watch the video portion of content on a page on my site without actually visiting the page and seeing the textual content. They did that at one time. But they don’t anymore.

And it aggravates me to no end that people, so many people, think there isn’t much out there beyond Facebook so they don’t really go anywhere unless someone posted a link to it on Facebook. Believe me that has been a major bug to me all along. But that’s not Facebook’s fault, it’s people’s laziness and limited horizons.

Maybe I’m not the right ‘business’ to make a case because I didn’t actually charge anyone any ad revenue to put ads on my site because I had no advertising because my site’s point was to serve my community and not my pocketbook. Be that as it may I still have no problem with either Google or Facebook posting links into my website because a lot of people just wouldn’t go there unless there was a link somewhere else to the site. I provide useful information but without shocking material – boring in comparison to Facebook. But then I don’t have a big payroll or presses or ink costs or paper costs. It’s just me my website my camera and my ability to write. Or it was … but that’s another story.

Please please please do not take this step. Do not impose limitations and pay barriers and impediments to our information gathering abilities just to support businesses they haven’t adapted fully. It impoverishes all of us and helps stave off final adaptation for those businesses who need that this.

One final side to all of this .

In these Covid times it’s become very clear that part of a healthy coping strategy is to keep a healthy positive outlook and not slip into depression and fear and let it ruin your life.

Early on in this my partner was complaining that the news was all covid covid covid and she was getting tired of seeing nothing but covid news. So I asked her to show me her news feed and I compared it to my news feed. Her news feed was polluted with covid news (there was a ton of it) whereas mine had maybe 15 to 20% and the rest was interesting things science oriented, real news oriented – many other things besides covid.

Why would that be?

One of the features of the news aggregator is you can tailor it to your interests and while you use it it also sees the things that you are interested in and the things that you’re not interested in. So even if it’s showing you more covid news than you want to see you can tell it you don’t want to see so much covid news. In addition, if you just don’t click on the covid news items it’ll notice that you don’t click on covid news and not show you as much of it.

I cannot possibly imagine that any news outlet out there depending upon ad revenue for its livelihood would go about restricting what you see when you visit their front page in this way. So if people are scared they’re going to see the scary things right up front – even if they’ve seen those things elsewhere , yesterday, last week, and are tired of seeing them so much. There’s no escaping them and their onslaught on your consciousness and psychology.

With the News Aggregator that’s not as much of a problem.