Google’s Mel Silva slams publishers’ ‘inaccurate numbers and unfounded assertions’, claims news searches only worth $10m

Google Australia managing director Mel Silva has hit back at claims the tech giant owes publishers up to $1bn in revenue, calling the figure ‘inaccurate’.

In a blog post, Silva said Google made just $10m in revenue from clicks on ads against news-related search queries in Australia and that any other figure is an ‘unfounded assertion’.

Should Google have to pay publishers the amount would be nowhere near the suggested $600m – $1bn says Silva

The fiery post from Silva opposed comments from News Corp Australia executive Michael Miller and Nine chairman Peter Costello who claimed that under the upcoming mandatory code which would see big tech platforms have to pay publishers for the use of news, Google would be looking at a $600m – $1bn bill.

Silva argued this wasn’t the case, saying the majority of revenue comes from searches with ‘commercial intent’.

“We don’t run ads on Google News or the news results tab on Google Search. And looking at our overall business, Google last year generated approximately AU$10 million in revenue—not profit—from clicks on ads against possible news-related queries in Australia. The bulk of our revenue comes not from news queries, but from queries with commercial intent, as when someone searches for ‘running shoes’ and then clicks on an ad,” Silva wrote in the post.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is currently drawing up a code of conduct, under the instruction of treasurer Josh Frydenberg, to review the commercial relationship between Facebook, Google and the big tech platforms and publishers in Australia.

When the code is finalised it will result in a payment system whereby the platforms are forced to give publishers an as of yet undecided fee for the use of news. The code is based on a recommendation from the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry (DPI) which suggested a voluntary code be created and monitored to improve the power balance between the two industries.

“The mandatory code will have important consequences for Australians, including how and which types of news they can search and discover through Google. As we work with the ACCC and Government, as well as with media companies to build out new solutions to derive additional revenue, it’s important to base decisions on facts, not inaccurate numbers and unfounded assertions,” said Silva.

Silva has already said Google believes there is a substantial two-way value exchange already in place and doesn’t believe more needs to be done. She has also argued that the role of news on platforms is not one of commercial value, but educational, and said that publishers are already entitled to decide how they interact and appear on Google Search.

“We recognise the importance of news and are committed to finding new ways to support publishers,” said Silva.


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