An alliance of newspapers in the United States is requesting Congress to exempt newspaper publishers from antitrust rules so that the news outlets can conduct joint negotiations with Facebook and Google. The two technologies now dominate online news traffic and online advertising.

Representing close to 2,000 news outlets in North America, New Media Alliance argues that due to the dominance of Facebook and Google, publishers of news are being forced to give up their content and conform to a standard of displaying, prioritizing and monetizing that is determined by the tech giants.

“These rules have commoditized the news and given rise to fake news, which often cannot be differentiated from real news,” said the alliance in a statement.

Print readership decline

There has been decline in print readership with the growth of the internet and this has also led to falling advertising revenues. The newspapers are not only seeking a larger slice of online advertising revenues but also want their subscription models to be supported and their intellectual property given stronger protections.

According to eMarketer, a research firm, 60% of the digital advertising market in the United States will be dominated by Facebook and Google in 2017. Last year newspapers in the United States generated $18 billion in advertising revenue. This was a decline of 63% from ten years when they generated $49 billion in advertising revenues. In that same period online ad revenue has risen from $16.9 billion to $72.5 billion.

Sustainability in news production

New Media Alliance’s chief executive officer, David Chavern, has said that the two technology companies profit unfairly from the expensive and painstaking work of journalists. Chavern has argued that the only way to change the state of affairs and ensure a more sustainable news business is by the news outlets coming together and negotiating with one voice. But in order for the news outlet to negotiate with one voice they would need to be exempted from antitrust law, a difficult and an unlikely feat.

In response to the development, Facebook’s chief of news partnerships, Campbell Brown, said that the social media giant was interested in fostering quality journalism. As an example Brown said that the social network was testing new features which would assist users in discovering local news. Brown also added that Facebook was not sparing any efforts in fighting clickbait headlines and false news. Facebook has also been offering journalists training to help them adapt to the new digital reality. Google has also been funding journalism projects.