Google rejects demands to help fund Australian news media companies

Hannah Boland
Google log and Sydney harbour

Google has rejected calls for it to pay millions of dollars each year to Australian media companies, arguing that news searches "represent only a tiny number of queries" on its site.

Australia is currently drafting new rules which would force firms such as Google and Facebook to share the advertising revenue that they generate from including news on their sites with publishers of the content. 

Last month, the chairman of Nine Entertainment, a major Australian media firm, said internet sites should be paying around A$600m  or over £300m every year to the news companies – around 10pc of the amount he estimated the companies made through online advertising in Australia in 2018.

However, overnight Google Australia managing director Mel Silva rejected the claims, saying the figure was far lower.

She said Google had made only around A$10m in revenue from news-linked advertising last year and, in that year, news-related queries had accounted for slightly more than 1pc of total queries on Google Search in Australia.

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"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," she wrote on a blog for Google.

"We all agree that high-quality news has great social value, but we need to understand the economics as well."

Ms Silva added that news sites derived benefits from being on Google: "To put it plainly, a lot of people (Australians and beyond) click from Google through to Australian news websites, which gives publishers the chance to make money by showing them ads or turning them into paying subscribers."

She said it was "important to base decisions on facts, not inaccurate numbers and unfounded assertions".

Australia is not alone in trying to force big technology companies to share advertising revenue with publishers, and both Spain and France have attempted similar steps, with little success.

In Spain, for example, Google pulled its Google News service after the country made it mandatory for the platforms to pay publishers. The French competition authority in April ordered Google to negotiate with French media firms.