- The heads of CNN and News Corp. have both spoken out against the power Facebook and Google have over digital media.
- On Monday, CNN President Jeff Zucker said the government should look at Facebook and Google’s monopoly power. News Corp. executive chairman Rupert Murdoch said in January that Facebook should pay media companies for content they post to the site.
- The comments hint at a war brewing between the interests of Big Media and Big Tech.
If CNN President Jeff Zucker’s comments on Monday are anything to go by, Big Media is taking on Big Tech.
Over the past few years, smaller, digital-native companies have had to grapple with the changing whims of Big Tech platforms run by Facebook and Google. Small adjustments in the Facebook News Feed or Google search algorithms can have an outsized, disastrous effect on those smaller firms.
For example: Just last week, Vox Media, which publishes sites like Racked, The Verge, and SB Nation, laid off 50 staffers, mostly from departments working on native social media. It was the latest sign of turmoil as digital-media companies grapple with big, tech-driven shifts in the industry.
But this year, traditional media companies have started to wake up to the power and influence of the Big Tech platforms as they try to transition to digital. Speaking at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona on Monday, CNN President Jeff Zucker said the government should look into the monopoly power Google and Facebook have over certain industries.
“Everyone is looking at whether these combinations of AT&T and Time Warner or Fox and Disney pass government approval and muster. The fact is nobody for some reason is looking at these monopolies that are Google and Facebook. That’s where the government should be looking, and helping to make sure everyone else survives. I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead,” Zucker said during his MWC speech, according to Variety.
(AT&T is in a legal battle with the DOJ over its acquisition of Time Warner, which owns CNN. Disney is buying most of 21st Century Fox.)
Zucker’s comments mirrored those made last month by News Corp. Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch. In a statement, Murdoch said Facebook should adopt a model that pays content producers, just like cable companies pay networks to carry their content. Murdoch’s statement also blasted Facebook’s fake-news problem.
“Facebook and Google have popularized scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable,” Murdoch said.
The comments from Zucker and Murdoch this year are the clearest signs yet that large media organizations are building a case against digital giants like Facebook and Google, which take in the vast majority of digital advertising dollars.
The defensive statements come with good reason. It turns out they’re no more immune to Big Tech’s influence on media than their small, digital-only counterparts — and they’re starting to feel the ill effects. Earlier this month, CNN laid off a few dozen staffers and restructured its digital business. CNN’s media correspondent wrote that the layoffs were “symptomatic of problems throughout the digital media marketplace.”
That digital marketplace is dominated by Facebook and Google, with little room for established Big Media players like CNN and Fox News to break through.
It’s happening slowly, but it is starting to sound like a war is brewing between media and tech.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.