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Plus Report - By Thomas Baekdal - June 2021

The lies we (publishers) tell ourselves about the tech companies

I was recently interviewed for a report made by John Wilkers, titled "Big tech and you". It looks at the relationship between publishers and the tech companies, and interviews a large group of media people.

The report itself is brilliant. John has done an excellent job putting together and outlining how everyone thinks. In fact, as a media analyst, I'm deeply grateful for his work because it helps me (and you) understand how all these people are thinking.

However, when reading the report, I was basically just screaming because so many made statements that are either not true or massively misleading, while others just have an outdated focus.

This, of course, is not the first time I have come across this. I see this every week. The 'reality distortion field' that exists around journalism and tech is crazy, and every day I see media people believe things that are very easy to disprove.

One example was back when we had the whole debacle about Facebook and the publishers in Australia. I was interviewed multiple times about that, and one of the journalists who contacted me told me that "Facebook gets most of its traffic from content published by the press".

This is fundamentally not true. According to Facebook's own numbers, only 4% of the newsfeed posts are like this (and outside experiments have shown it to be between 5% and 8%). This means that 96% of Facebook is not about this at all.

As a media analyst, this worries me greatly, because if the very people whose job it is to inform others are themselves not informed, then where does that leave society?

So, in this article, I'm going to do some mythbusting, because we seriously need to change the way we talk about these things.

Note: Before anyone starts to yell at me, I feel pressured to also point out that there are problems with both Google and Facebook. I have written about this repeatedly. I have talked about how Google's plans to control the no-cookie future are bad, how Facebook needs to change the way political advertising works, and many more things. But this article is not about that. This article is about us.

So, let's look at some of these quotes

We cannot live without the tech companies

In the FIPP report, Robert Whitehead (and many others) said:

Media companies cannot live without the Googles, Facebooks, and, lesser so, the Apples or Amazons. But the reverse, if ever true, is unacknowledged.

Is this true? Uhm... kind of, and kind of not.

First of all, there are huge differences on how this works depending on who you are as a publisher. If you are a small unknown publisher, Google Search is essential, and Facebook advertising can be a very effective way to let people know that you have something new to offer.

Similarly, Apple's tight control of iOS means that if you want to do anything outside of the browser on mobile, you cannot get around Apple.

However, if you are a big publisher, this relationship doesn't really work the same way anymore. Now, in fact, it might work against you.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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