back to article Microsoft backs Australia’s pay-for-news plan, risks massive blowback over a lousy $3bn and change

Microsoft has backed Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code, a scheme the nation intends as a mechanism to make Google and Facebook pay local news publishers for the privilege of linking to their work to deliver a new funding mechanism for public interest journalism. The software giant today issued a statement titled “ …

  1. Blackjack Silver badge

    How true is that Bing is better for news results that Google? I read an article about that but I am not sure if I should believe it or not.

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      As far as I can tell, nobody uses Bing except by (a) corporate network decree, (b) accident, or (c) MS defaulting/redirecting people there by one of various means and them not knowing any better. Regarding the latter, it's pretty telling that Bing has carefully designed its search results page to look incredibly similar to Google's in the hope that nobody will notice they're not actually using Google. Maybe I'm wrong – maybe some people actually like Bing and use it religiously – but I've yet to hear anyone rave about it.

      (I should note that I avoid both of them, so I've no skin in the game here in the one-vs-the-other debate. I would, however, say that if you're using Bing because you hate Google, why not give Duckduckgo a try? They actually seem to use a lot of results from Bing anyway, but they don't do the tracking thing.)

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      The only use for Bing is to find the link to download Firefox, or eventually Chrome.

      Then you use StartPage, or eventually DuckDuckGo to do your searches.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Are you suggesting that my use of Firefox is a phase I'll grow out of before moving on to Chrome? It seemed to happen the other way round for me :P

      2. julian.smith
        Facepalm

        Startpage is compromised?

        Privacy One Group Ltd acquired a stake in the company which is owned by the advertising company System1. System1 states that it uses "technology to make advertising better and safer, while respecting consumer privacy".

        An advertising company buys into a "privacy focussed" search engine

        What could possibly go wrong?

        I moved to DuckDuckGo

    3. Totally not a Cylon

      I find Bing gives better results when searching for 'Technical stuff' and a big plus in that IT'S NOT GOOGLE!

      The points towards Xbox stuff is useful as well.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        The one bit of Google that I'm sadly unable to avoid due to my day job is Google Scholar. If anyone knows of a viable (free/not requiring a prohibitively priced institutional subscription) alternative, I'd be grateful to hear about it.

    4. IGotOut Silver badge

      I find Bing images better than Googke

      So there you go.

      Otherwise it's Startpage or Ecosia for me.

      1. Kaki

        +1 for ecosia, and they help the environment.

        1. conscience

          Not sure what they do to be eco-friendly, but Ecosia say that they use Bing's results and advertising on their site.

          1. Rattlerjake

            What a fool - they claim "helping to combat climate change"; planting trees does NOT combat climate change. Trees need CO2, so combating CO2 is lessening a vital gas needed for trees to exist, so it would wiser to help increase CO2 production, like they do in greenhouses to increase plant growth!

    5. HildyJ Silver badge
      Boffin

      News, rewards

      I use Bing for two things. First, for Microsoft Rewards which lets me earn points while browsing their news feed each morning. I find their feed less targeted but more current than Google Assistant and less jumbled than the Google News app, When going from the All option to the News option on a general search I find it more useful than Google. (N.B. I don't know if Microsoft Rewards is available outside of the US.)

      I also use Bing for those websites I can't avoid that don't work with Firefox (where I spend almost all my browsing time.

      1. Rattlerjake

        Re: News, rewards

        Why would anyone listen to news that comes from either of those sources?

    6. Danny Boyd

      I tried same searches on Google and Bing - results are practically identical. But Bing doesn't sell your queries to advertisers.

      StartPage is not a separate search engine, it's anonymised Google search.

  2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Long Game

    The Rejects of Redmond are playing a long game here. If the Aussie plan goes through and Chocolate Factory leaves it hurts Chocolate Factory more strategically than the financial costs of revenue sharing does the Rejects. The goal is to make Chocolate Factory look arrogant and petulant while looking reasonable by working with Canberra on the legislation.

    The effect on Suckerberg is more indirect as either .au news sites are blockaded or they pay up. Either way the Rejects win. Suckerberg either looks like petulant brat or he has to pay up.

    The Rejects are not terribly dependent on Bling for revenue so it being slightly less profitable does not really hurt their bottom line. It actually might be a rounding error. So for the cost of a rounding error they stand to look good. This is because the Rejects are primarily a software and cloudy house whose revenue is not derived from advertising but what is essentially software rental. Suckerberg and the Chocolate Factory are more highly dependent on ad revenue so any sharing is more apt to affect their net profits.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Long Game

      "The goal is to make Chocolate Factory look arrogant and petulant"

      You mean even more?

      "Suckerberg either looks like petulant brat or he has to pay up."

      Nope, should read "pay up and still look like a brat"

      Regarding the author's point of this breaking the internet: I'm not convinced that the internet is not already broken. Search results typically point you to FB, Pinterest, or some other "platform" that I'd rather not use. The internet is by now mostly a method of delivering these platforms and asocial media (the overlap between those is non-zero) to the masses.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Long Game

        "The internet is by now mostly a method of delivering these platforms and asocial media "

        You mean like a kind of Propoganda Machine ?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “one of his major successes”

    Morrison’s had successes?

    Pray tell.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: “one of his major successes”

      Maybe he improved his golf handicap on his Hawaii holiday while Australia was on fire?

      1. Denarius Silver badge

        Re: “one of his major successes”

        so if he came back he was supposed to put fires out by doing what ? A stand-in was in place, as required. Are you one of those types that value meaningless gestures above rational behavior. I would prefer a rested PM rather than one run ragged. A weary PM is more likely to be run by the advisors and other infestations in parliament

        1. The Central Scrutinizer

          Re: “one of his major successes”

          The country was literally burning and he was fucking holidaying. That is not leadership. I'm guessing you don't live in Australia.

          1. 2460 Something
            Mushroom

            Re: “one of his major successes”

            Seems to me you are responding to a Jim Butcher styled holder of a Denarius, in which case they will quite happily watch the world burn.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    serious internet heavyweights – like Sir Tim Berners Lee himself - are among those who have criticised Australia’s approach on grounds that paying for links is such a significant break with internet conventions that it will create unwelcome change and reduce the net’s utility for all.

    Oh yes, we're all very interested in what Tim Berners "Let's add DRM to the standard" Lee has to say on the subject - he's a paragon of virtue, only interested in the spirit of the internet, and not at all a pawn of corporate overlords. Please tell us more about his opinion.

    1. Def Silver badge

      I'm not sure which rock he's been living under for the last 20 years either, because advertisers have been paying for links and clicks since the beginning of the World Wide Web.

      And I'm generally fine with that. It's when end-users have to start paying that it becomes a problem.

      1. scrubber

        Paying for links

        The issue here is the inability to choose not to link. Charge for links if you want, as long as they can then be "bought" or not, but this proposal says you have to pay regardless. Sounds a lot like a TV license for the internet. I'm all for helping small media and actual journalism where possible, but this seems like something else entirely.

        1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

          Re: Paying for links

          "How dare you show the headline and maybe the 1st paragraph of "MY WORK"! How dare you generate interest in MY WORK so that maybe someone will click on the link and be directed to MY WEBSITE and see the advertising the I"M BEING PAID TO DISPLAY! You evil terrible monster! You owe me money for generating revenue for ME."

          Do I have this right? Now just who is being petulant!

          Will this law apply to news aggregators or just Google and FB? If I want to link to a story in Australia from my blog do I have to pay?

          You Aussies really need to put a leash of some of your politicians!

      2. nijam Silver badge

        > ... advertisers have been paying for links ...

        So why does Australia want newspapers to get paid for links?

        I know there's a lot of vitriol for Google here, but seriously, this a bad idea.

        PS anyone who thinks MS has somehow become magically "better" than Google may also be living under a rock. Or in this case, a whole planet.

  5. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Spite

    Anything that Microsoft can do to hurt Google they will do - remember the loads of false advertising and lobbying against Google using various shell groups.

    What M$ can not stand is that Google is a far more successful search company than they are.

    If Google wants to hurt M$ back, a good tactic might be to write good user documentation for LibreOffice and make the documentation freely available. At the moment M$ Office has two advantages - inertia and good third party documentation. Removing one of these advantages would probably hurt M$ more in the long term than M$ will hurt Google in Australia.

    Putting an advert for LibreOffice on the Google homepage for a month or two might be even more nasty to M$.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Putting an advert for LibreOffice on the Google homepage for a month or two

      I'm not sure that would work. A few years ago now, I had the opportunity to help set up a small education center. Of course, they were strapped for cash and of course, they needed word processor and speadsheet stuff, but didn't have the money for MS Office.

      I told them about LibreOffice and, with their enthusiastic approval, installed it for them.

      A week later I learned they were all working on Word and Excel with an unregistered licence. Apparently, they did not find LibreOffice user-friendly enough.

      I suspect that they all worked on pirated copies of MS Office on their home computers, and were unwilling to go through the feeble effort to learn something slightly different on their work computers.

      I think that is the mentality of a lot of people today. Least effort.

    2. druck Silver badge

      Re: Spite

      If google pull out of Australia there will be a massive spike in bing usage, as Microsoft are hoping for.

      But it will only last as long as it takes to type google and VPN.

      1. julian.smith
        Linux

        Re: Spite

        Better to type

        DuckDuckGo and VPN

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Spite

      Google couldn't write good documentation for a Snickers bar.

      You'd end up with nine different documents on different servers, with no discernable schema or relationship to anything, least of all each other; no version numbers of any kind; all labelled "BETA", and all with dead links to documents supposed to define meaningless variables such as "MAX_PEANUT_SPAN".

      Libre Office? That would be a challenge for anyone to document. The Document Foundation can't do it, and they're responsible for it. To think of Google even talking about it - heck, actually I would like to see that. I'd bring popcorn.

      1. FlamingDeath Silver badge

        Re: Spite

        You’ve just described every shit show company out there

      2. nijam Silver badge

        Re: Spite

        > Libre Office? That would be a challenge for anyone to document.

        You've tried reading the MSWord documentation?

  6. Denarius Silver badge

    now openly admitted

    so is M$ one of the bigger players like China secretly slipping money to political parties under radar (easy to do in Oz) to get legislation they want ? I note the Greens, as usual, have shown their lack of understanding of human behaviour again with a call to build a government owned search engine. I ask again who initiated this legislation as no clear reason has surfaced yet.

    1. rajivdx

      Re: now openly admitted

      Who initiated this legislation?

      Rupert Murdoch.

  7. tiggity Silver badge

    short termist

    The whole paying for links thing is a bad idea, especially as news sites get traffic driven to them by Google & FB.

    Would be interesting to see what happens if Google do pull out.

    I may be unusual, but for news there's a few sites I regularly visit (e.g. this one for some IT news) but outside of that its from "suggestions" e.g. google news, social media, without those "suggestions" I would not visit news sites outside my core regulars, so a few sites get extra hits from me in that way.

    I'm sure MS do not care about the financial hit (I assume if Google pulled out, Bing would then be top Oz search engine & so charged for links)

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: short termist

      I don't know whether paying for links is a good or bad idea. I do know that my local (UK) newspaper has turned into a useless rag full of novelty articles and no sport or arts section because they can't afford to cover it. Only ten year ago it was a serious paper and when I first moved to this area about 25 years ago it was just about the only paper I read. Local press is important - it holds local politicians to account and is part of the glue that holds our communities together. The fact that 3 or 4 US companies have swept up nearly all the advertising revenue has destroyed local press. Google's claim about driving traffic to news sites is patently bollocks otherwise the papers wouldn't be in the awful state they are in.

      1. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: short termist

        Links themselves shouldn’t be a problem, I think it is more to do with scraping the entire article so you don’t need to visit the news site to understand what is being said.

        A site I run a few years ago got linked to a bbc news article (just a straight hyperlink) result almost 3000 hits in a day where it normally gets about 40. There isn’t any advertising on the site but it did generate some traffic.

        Now if google deemed it newsworthy and copied the whole body of the text into the search result then that would be a concern.

        My you my local newspaper site is a nightmare of adverts scripts etc so it take about 30 seconds to load a page, which is why I very rarely use it. Go back 20 years and we had one paid for local paper and 2 free papers (mostly full of estate agent adverts).

        That is why I subscribe to a physical paper and get it from the newsagents every day.

      2. Richard Jones 1

        Re: short termist

        I stopped the local paper at least 20 years back. It was aiming at a different target market. I know some local papers started vendettas against companies or groups to try to get them to spend more on advertising. Not a great idea if the target has no advertising need or budget. It simply made a boring parade of pointless complaints. We now get a local 'free-sheet' with a variety of local community content, but it cannot be all things to all people. I skim through, but rarely linger on anything.

        I suspect that many people have just moved on because Parish Pump items do not hold many people's attention for long, if at all. Debates about bus shelters lost currency when the busses disappeared. We get some local advertising via leaflet drops, but most is sent straight to the recycling bin.

        If I seek local news I go to the internet and search for the specific item, be it from council, county or other organs. Usually, I seek items I need to know about now, not read about tomorrow or next week, so 'chip wrappers' are no use.

      3. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: short termist

        Most local papers got purchased by a small number of far bigger media companies, and did a cynical cost cutting exercise of cutting local reporters, meaning a "local" paper was soon almost the same news as that for its nearest big city.

        As the buyout of independent papers was happening at a similar time to web monetization first becoming a big thing, its difficult to know where the blame lies. I know the local paper stopped wanting results of local sports / hobby leagues submitting many years ago (the minor local stuff such as town based darts, pool, skittles, football leagues i.e. the real amateur, local club & society stuff)

        I do know my "local" paper website is unusable due to all the advertising / scripts that infest it (turned blockers off on the site to give them revenue but that idea backfired as I just ran away screaming from the abomination of a website that was served up to me) and only really has news of the big towns / cities near me (and not much news then).

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: short termist

          A similar thing has happened in many "traditional" media situations. When I worked in local radio 25-odd years ago, not only was IRN a completely separate outfit to ITN and therefore more willing and able to provide "radio ready" (as opposed to playing a television report without the pictures) national and international news, but we had an excellent local newsroom, certainly on a par with the local independent TV franchise if not quite as well-funded as the local BBC. There was a team of perhaps five or six full-time journalists - including at weekends - with many part-time reporters, and we took in two or three students a term from the university's journalism course. The radio station had a broadcast region covering somewhere less than a million people and was pretty much all live and apart from the Chart Show and out-of-hours news, all local. Money wasn't free-and-easy, but it certainly wasn't tight.

          After several changes of ownership, the company which now uses the same frequencies is part of a major group and as far as I'm aware there is no real local content on the AM service and only a few hours a day on FM. Last I heard there were proposals to close the station's offices in the service area and move even that local programming to a broadcast hub somewhere else.

          The same happened to the two regional newspapers which were based just up the road, the same has happened to the ITV franchise - which lost its 1980s-built studio complex and now has a few floors in an office block - and the same has certainly happened to the local newspapers, the only surviving one of which in my town is mostly free ads, syndicated content and rushed copy from the single in-area journalist.

          These days, truly "local" radio runs largely with volunteers, makes very little money and is heard by very few people. The money is mostly online, is mediated through a very few, usually US-based companies who "curate" content according to some black-magic automated rule set, and editorial control of "citizen journalists" is practically non-existent.

          Things do move on, but we have to find a way of funding professional journalism and getting that journalism to a large audience, even if that audience would rather not hear some of the stories which don't align with their world views.

          No, I don't have the answer either, but it seems to me that what the Australian government is trying to do is at the very least a warning shot across the bows of these mega-corps that things can't carry on the way they are, and it certainly seems to have kick-started the debate in that part of the world.

          M.

      4. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: short termist

        Google's claim about driving traffic to news sites is patently bollocks otherwise the papers wouldn't be in the awful state they are in.

        I think that's the key. Unless I have completely misunderstood the problem (entirely possible since I'm not actually in Australia), the reason this legislation came up in the first place wasn't to discourage linking, per-se, but to discourage scraping. If Google's search results return not just the heading of an article but the whole first paragraph - and sometimes more - then often there is no need to follow the link to the originating website at all, and adverts from that site are never loaded and can never generate revenue. If Google goes further and puts a larger part of the linked article into a pop-up box (again, I have no real idea if they do this; on the rare occasions I actually use Google search I will do so with most scripts blocked) then to my uninformed mind that's only one step away from stealing. Plagiarism at best.

        It's like wandering into the newsagent, taking a photograph of the front page and then running off copies on a printer to sell for your own benefit.

        Or have I grabbed completely the wrong end of the stick?

        M.

        1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

          Re: short termist

          That they show the 1st paragraph is not really the problem. The problem is readers to day barely read past the headline. Headlines that are so misleading they sometime are the complete opposite of what the article states. That is not a problem this law can fix.

      5. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

        Re: short termist

        The problem with most "print" newspapers is they suffer from the same milady many traditional business do when times change, "failure to adapt". They have management who completely fail to see the changes coming. Like Kodak thinking for years the digital photography would never replace chemical film, all to their demise! A lot of revenue that the big papers received in the past was from local papers paying to reprint their articles, now all you need to do is link to that article. The add revenue stays with the original publisher. There are many successful local news sites, your local "paper" has just failed to adapt. If there is valuable local news people will read it. re: sports, I live in the South East US and High School football is huge here. The only coverage is local. Friday night high school fields are packed (sans pandemic) and there are 1/2 hour sports specials on TV every Friday at 11:30 specifically covering High School football. There is an entire section of the Saturday sports pages covering High School football. If you want to be successful locally you need to know what the locals care about and report on that!

        1. nijam Silver badge

          Re: short termist

          > ... the same milady ...

          Who?

      6. nijam Silver badge

        Re: short termist

        > I do know that my local (UK) newspaper has turned into a useless rag

        Yes, but that happened years before the internet, let alone Google, in most cases.

    2. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: short termist

      I doubt that millions of Aussies would suddenly decided to go to Bing if Google pulled out of Australia. As what would that actually mean? They would close and Australian offices and data centres but neither Google or the AU Gov would be foolish enough to completely block access to Google services, more likely they would probably just put up some notice on the google.com.au site that they no longer operate in Australia, and redirect people to Google.com

      I am sure there are already several countries where Google don't have offices or data centres but the citizens can still access Google, Gmail, Maps, Youtube etc and Google still makes profits from users clicking on ads

      1. rajivdx

        Re: short termist

        Oh yes, we will!

        I have DuckDuckGo and Bing as my search engines. Have an iPhone with no Google apps. The iPhone is crap compared to Windows Phone (RIP) and Android, but it does not track me as intrusively as Google does. I would love to get off GMail as well, but for now have to make do with fetching my Gmail on Outlook.

        I appreciate that companies need advertising to make money for content they offer for free. I appreciate that some profiling is needed to offer targeted ads. I appreciate the need to track my location for features like FindMyPhone. But why does Google need to track my location even when I put my phone in 'Flight Mode'? Why do they need to interpret my location data like 'walking', 'running', 'entering a vehicle', 'exiting a vehicle', etc? This is extremely intrusive.

        20+ years ago when I started using Google, I never thought they will become the evil they are today.

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    MShaft sidling up to you with a smile and agreeing to play by your rules is on par with Rugrat Angelica offering to push you on the playground swings.

    It might be fun for a while but it's gonna end in tears.

    As for their search engine; is MS going to rename the Oz version Bung?

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Rugrat Angelica

      Or for those of us over a certain age, Lucy offering to hold Charlie Brown's football...

      M.

  9. alain williams Silver badge

    I am confused ...

    I thought that the OZ bill was about paying for news content. If google/facebook show the news then there is no need to visit the media web site.

    However this article is talking about paying for links. If google/facebook just link to a media web site then the media site has opportunity to show adverts, set cookies, etc, and so have opportunity to get income.

    I would approve of google/facebook having to pay for showing to the user content from the media. I do not approve of them having to pay for just linking (and showing a small amount of link text).

    I looked at the PDF of the bill ... not the easiest to read.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: I am confused ...

      A lot of news links run into a paywall. Assuming that I bite any pay up then surely the news site should be paying the search engine to drive traffic towards it?

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: I am confused ...

        There are sometimes articles that are paywalled if you access them from the internet/google but are readable if you access them from Facebook. The WSJ or whoever will do a "sponsored link" on a story that Facebook's data collection machine thinks you'll be interested in, hoping to get a few people to decide to subscribe.

    2. rajivdx

      Re: I am confused ...

      I agree, previews should be paid form.

      Hyperlinks that look the same as other search results should not be paid for - this is how Google was 15 years ago. Search brought up news articles just as regular search results.

      I recon anything that appears on Google News should be paid for. Google scrapes so much information that you don't need to click through to get a summary of what's happening in the world today. I think that is a problem for most news sites.

      That said, instead of having a dialog with government and news sites to debate what should be payable and what not, Google has decided to use their clout to throw intrusive ads at people who land on their search page and arm twisting us with threats to leave the country. You know what? Pack up and go Google - we've had enough.

      I've been using DuckDuckGo for a while - its very good on privacy but has usability issues - most annoyingly not being able to navigate back from a link. i am using Bing now, and its really good, a very usable alternative to Google, particularly for news.

  10. martinusher Silver badge

    Not as big as it thinks it is

    Australia is a huge country, its bigger than the continental US, and its size might convince some people that its actually a lot bigger on the world stage than it actually is. Politicians are particularly prone to inflating their own importance so you read in our media that someone like their PM is 'taking on' a country like China it really comes across more as an annoying fly buzzing around than anything more significant.

    Sorry to mention this, Australians, its really no reflection on your country as such, its more about relative market and income sizes. The vast size of the country means that local media will need subsidizing if you need anything more than a bunch of tabloids dominated by the likes of Murdoch's "News Whatever". This subsidy should come from the country as a whole, not by casting around looking for likely (foreign) players to soak.

  11. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    These cunting news paper organisations are the first to attack communism, and yet here we are, news paper shit slingers want a free ride and free money just for fucking existing

    They should just stick up a pay wall, oh wait that didnt work because nobody values their lies and fucking awful spelling anymore

    Just fucking die already...

  12. VulcanV5

    As his track record shows, Nadella's motives are anything but cynical

    Compulsory installation of Microsoft's Windows 10 via a large-scale con trick was a hallmark of Nadella's rein and his belief that ethics is an English county somewhere near London.

    In much the same way that the inhabitants of a hen-house need to be careful of the fox at the door, so too do Australia's politicos and citizenry need to be wary of the seemingly amiable and supportive Microsoft.

  13. silent_count

    What happens if

    As best I can tell, this proposed law is to prevent Google from 'stealing' from Australian news sites (by linking to their articles or presenting excerpts without paying them for the privilege).

    Let's say this does become law and Google subsequently quits Australia. If the collective profits for Australian news sites decreases the following year, will anyone be willing to admit that the entire premise of this law was faulty?

    PS: My read is that the government is extorting a foreign company and giving the proceeds to local media. Displaying typical journalistic integrity, local media will fawn over the government whose handing them bags of cash. The opposition is too spineless to oppose much of anything, lest local media say bad things about them, and are secretly jealous they didn't concoct this quid pro quo themselves.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great news

    Murdoch news sites get relegated to hits on a low profile, backwater of a search engine.

    Whilst the rest of the planet uses Google.

    What's not to like?

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