Stop whining about Facebook and Google and learn from them, media companies told

Traditional media companies need to stop “whining” about the rise of Google and Facebook and accept that they were out-competed, one of the world’s leading media observers has suggested.

Jeff Jarvis, professor at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, was in Australia to mark the launch of UTS’s new Centre for Media Transition.

Jarvis: “Whining and complaining” will not make Google and Facebook go away

Asked about whether Google and Facebook should face a tax on their profits to fund public interest journalism, Jarvis, author of the book What Would Google Do?, argued that media players should be seeking to learn from the digital behemoths, but not blame them for their falling revenues.

His comments came on the same week that Standard Media Index released numbers suggesting that the Australian print industry had gone through the worst financial year in its history, with advertising spend on newspapers down by 18.4% and magazines down 15.6%.

And yesterday, News Corp’s boss Michael Miller gave a speech in which he cited the flow of new digital revenues mainly to Google and Facebook.

Meanwhile, Jarvis argued last night that traditional players need to get used to the fact that the world has changed. He said: “The notion that they need to make money is a funny thing to me. There is no God-given right to make the money we used to.

“They competed with us and they gave advertisers a much better deal and a much better sense of their customers. I don’t blame them – we messed that up. We lost the business and that’s our own damn fault.”

Jarvis argued that grants from Facebook or Google  – which are currently occurring around the world – to fund new journalism projects are not the main answer to make good the decline in public service journalism.

He said: “Right now because of press and regulatory pressure, they need friends. What we don’t need is their charity, what we need is their specialist help. Google could teach us a great deal about how to give greater relevance. There are skills they can teach.”

Referring to lobbying to tax the companies’ profits to pay for public interest journalism, he said: “All your whining and complaining and hiding behind the skirts of politicians is not going to make them go away.”

Jarvis – who gave his talk on the rise of “fake news” – was also asked about the role of public relations in that landscape.

He argued: “Some would say that public relations was early into the fake news industry… I’m not saying that myself”

“Public relations has to learn a new responsibility – rather than being a representative of the company to the public, being the representative of the public to the company is where the opportunity lies. The hard part is if the company still misbehaves, you’ve got to fire them as a client.”

Jarvis was also critical of Twitter for failing to grapple with the issue of it being too easy to create multiple fake personas as a means of trolling or spreading misinformation.

He said: “I love Twitter because of the openness, but openness leads to trolling.

“Facebook and especially Twitter must do something about the ability to mass create bots.

“Twitter ain’t doing shit, and that’s a problem.”


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