Isentia’s ‘CEO is paid over $1m… yet they cry poor’: Streem slams rivals

Isentia and Meltwater customers need to “ask tough questions about why they’re in court trying to drive down the price of news”, according to competitor media monitoring company, Streem.

“Isentia has pulled in more than $1 billion in revenue in the past eight years off the back of content from News Corp, Nine and others,” chief executive of Streem, Elgar Welch, told Mumbrella. “Their CEO [Ed Harrison] is paid over $1 million every year in cash and equity, yet they cry poor and continue to fight publishers over payment for valuable journalism.”

The way Isentia and Meltwater are attempting to wiggle out of paying an appropriate amount for news, according to Welch, is through their ongoing stoush with the Copyright Agency. Both businesses, which boast an estimated 85% share of the local media monitoring market, are seeking a cut in the copyright fees they pay to access news content for clients.

Streem has taken aim at its competitors

These fees are collected by the Copyright Agency, which then distributes money to most publishers (last year, both News Corp’s The Australian and Nine’s The Australian Financial Review ditched the agency to instead enter into direct licensing deals with the media monitors).

Streem was also originally part of the proceedings – which returns to the tribunal on 8 February – but withdrew at the end of last year and entered into a new licensing agreement with the Copyright Agency. Welch said the terms of that deal were also offered to Isentia and Meltwater, but both declined.

At the time, Welch called the deal “landmark”, said coming to such an agreement is “always better than being in a court environment”, and reprimanded his competitors for “bickering over the price of content”. Now, Welch has ramped up that criticism even further.

Streem CEO Elgar Welch

“As the threat of misinformation grows, and publishers struggle for revenue, supporting the value of news should now be a corporate governance issue. Monitoring organisations that don’t pay properly should be isolated from the market,” he said.

“Where you source your media monitoring from, and how your supplier is paying for that content, is now a threshold question for corporates and government departments.

“In the same way you wouldn’t knowingly buy a coffee from a company that isn’t sustainably sourcing its beans, this is no different given the enormous value of news to society and our economy.

“If you’re a customer of Isentia or Meltwater, it’s time to ask tough questions about why they’re in court trying to drive down the price of news.”

His comments follow a cyber attack on Isentia in November, which necessitated a trading halt, cost the business around $8.5 million and impacted corporate and government clients for a number of weeks. Streem said Isentia clients were forced to scramble for emergency media monitoring services elsewhere, and news outlets received less copyright fees.

Ed Harrison, CEO of Isentia

“The ransomware attack wasn’t Isentia’s fault but it wasn’t the publishers’ either,” Welch continued.

“Media companies shouldn’t be made to bear the brunt of Isentia’s bad luck and old technology. If they can afford to pay a CEO $1 million a year, they can afford to pay what’s right for the content.”

Isentia rejected the criticism, telling Mumbrella in a statement that it is “a good copyright citizen and has always complied with copyright licence reporting and payment arrangements”.

“Isentia is pleased to see that Streem is finally copyright compliant having been called out by the Copyright Agency in public hearings in the tribunal for its non-compliance,” a spokesperson countered.

“Isentia believes in quality journalism and we want publishers to receive fair compensation for the valuable content they provide. We were at the forefront of establishing media monitoring copyright licences in ANZ and have had licences in place with the Copyright Agency since 2001.

“At the same time, we want to provide our clients with cost effective and sustainable access to the news that matters to them. It’s only by respecting these principles that we can contribute to the development of the media ecosystem.”

The business also said that since it delivers more than just media monitoring services, “while News Corp and Nine and others are an important source of content to Isentia, they are only one part of a much wider content and data set including social media”.

It is hoping the ongoing proceedings “will deliver a fair outcome for publishers and customers and a level playing field for media monitoring organisations”.

Meltwater was also approached for comment, but did not respond by deadline.

The value of news is already highly contested at the moment

Streem’s emphasis on the importance of paying fairly for news comes less than a week after publishers and the digital platforms presented at a senate hearing, debating the News Media Bargaining Code. At the hearing, Google’s managing director, Melanie Silva, said the company would pull its search function from the Australian market if the code became law.

The code, which was introduced to parliament late last year but is yet to become law, would force Facebook and Google to negotiate with media companies over the price of news. Should a news outlet and a platform not reach an agreement, they would have to proceed to a compulsory arbitration process.

The publications argue that Facebook and Google derive a significant benefit from hosting news they don’t pay for on their platforms. But the platforms contend they provide the value to publishers, which receive substantial traffic as a result of click throughs from their sites.


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