Need clear definition of who must be part of digital code: Paul Thomas, Star News Group

The Managing Director of Star News Group shared insights about the publisher-platform relationship at e4m’s DNPA Dialogues 

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Nov 26, 2022 11:03 AM  | 7 min read
Star News Group

exchange4media Group organised a global virtual roundtable conference - DNPA Dialogues to decode the Publisher - Platform relationship. Paul Thomas, Managing Director, Star News Group, was one of the speakers at the virtual conference. He spoke about the digital news ecosystem in Australia and publishers. 

 Thomas started off the session by speaking about his association with Country Press Australia. “I've been involved in this since the very start of it from 2017 when I was asked to look into it, and then have been through that entire journey up until the legislation enacted in March 2021. And obviously still ongoing through our current agreements that we've got with the platforms. My involvement was primarily as a participant representing independent newspapers across the country through our Newspaper Association, Country Press Australia which represents 190 member newspapers. 

Country Press Australia represents a wide range of sizes of publications from small regional newspapers to groups, with many newspapers, but most of our members are really quite small. Country Press Publications were the core of what the platform's inquiry of Australia represented, that is ensuring a strong local media continues to be sustained, to know that public interest journalism will be continuously provided to local communities and holding the powerful to account and acting as a voice and a platform for informed public debate. 

Thomas highlighted how digital platforms used their content and took advantage of their advertisers for many years. “The digital platforms had for many years used our contents and preyed on our advertisers, yet at the same time, didn't have the same accountability through legislation such as defamation laws. And given the size of them in the newspapers, we had no power or influence over the platforms obviously. It’s great that Australia ensured this power balance was evened. And ultimately, the recommendations to the government which led to the legislation and the mandatory code.”

Elaborating on Australia’s Media Bargaining Code and how Facebook blocked news in the country, he explained, “Initially, the code was intended to be voluntary. And some discussions at that point took place between publishers and the digital platforms. But the reality is, there was no urgency and there was no commitment. And it was amazing the major changes that took place once the government announced that the code would become mandatory and they indicated through a draft bill that the platforms would ultimately be forced to reach an outcome through arbitration. Obviously, that wasn't achieved through negotiations. As we all know, it was finally negotiated only once really Facebook removed news from the platform, for a period of time, it led to a slight softening of the approach and only required this arbitration process if a platform was designated. And this really did force the platforms to come to the table and negotiate an outcome with each of the publishers.”

Sharing some key takeaways, Thomas said, “What you need to do with digital platforms in environments such as India, from the experiences that we've had, is that you need to ensure governments do provide a legislative framework that forces platforms to the table, and enables small publishers to work together as a collective to negotiate. In our case, it provided a much greater power balance, but also made it a lot easier for the platforms to work through a single point of contact.”

“If the platforms have to negotiate with, in our case in Australia, hundreds and hundreds of publishers, in India's case 1000s of publishers, that becomes almost impossible for them to reach an outcome. In the end, we also need to ensure a clear definition of who should be included in any digital platforms code. And one of the things I think we've been concerned about now in our industry is that codes such as this can be abused and platforms to our providing content for not providing public interest journalism have been included in negotiations for funds. An example of this in Australia is a platform providing things like restaurant reviews and information, but they don't have any commitment to public interest journalism,” he concluded.

Thomas also engaged in an interesting Q&A session.

Excerpts:

Pawan Agarwal, Deputy Managing Director, DB Corp Ltd.: This is a quote from the statement that you made to the Australian antitrust regulator. In the letter to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, you wrote that the duopoly of Google and Facebook have had a profound impact on Star News Group over recent years, impacting revenue profitability and the company's ability to provide public interest journalism to local communities. While I wanted to know where all did you feel the pinch the most and could you quantify the exact loss?

Quantifying an exact loss would be very difficult. So, the single biggest issue I think that Facebook and Google had on local publishers has been their ability to control their advertising platforms and essentially control the prices that businesses pay in local environments. Unless you're selling the Facebook platform as a publisher, you can't place ads on Facebook. With Google, they essentially control the amount that people pay, and obviously through things like Google Ads, they control the advertising environment quite significantly as well. So, the inability of a small local publisher or even a larger publisher to be able to monetize the digital business in an advertising environment has become almost impossible.

Tanmay Maheshwari, Managing Director, Amar Ujala & Chairman, DNPA: What does the future hold for you guys, both on the print side as well as the digital side, in the next three to five years, how is the business shaping up and what will be the type of journalism that you guys would do more and what’s the ultimate outcome?

in Australia, it's been a significant change. So our business and the industry group that I'm involved with, is very much about regional and local journalism and newspapers. So, we don't tend to cover national stories. We're very much about hyper-local journalism. And in Australia that was quite controlled up until the pandemic in 2020. So, sort of two big companies in Australia that dominated in that sphere, and in 2020 when the pandemic hit, there was a significant mass number of papers that were closed essentially overnight.

And since then, in Australia, there's been a really significant increase in start-ups that have been started by independent publishers. And it's interesting to see that the real change in what's been provided to local communities now they're getting and that's partly because of the digital platforms money that's coming through and we have had some other good governments for Australia. But independent papers now are producing in the same areas that the big players were producing papers. They're providing papers that are probably three or four times the size and three to four times the journalism that those big companies were providing. They don't do syndicated content, by and large, and there has been a really big shift back to hyper-local. The local communities in Australia because of those closures have really seen what they were missing out on. And for a period of time, they didn't have a newspaper and the whole fabric of that society started to fall apart. And so there's just been a really significant shift. And I think I'm excited by the future. I think there are obviously challenges in how we continue to monetize ourselves across the digital platform. There is still significant difficulties in getting a model online that provides that scalability and that's why governments and that's why the digital platforms and others have to play a part in that, and I think the future will always now be but there's got to be those added mechanisms involved in that ongoing sustainability of a local medium.

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‘Monetisation of news platforms biggest challenge in digital era’

At e4m-DNPA Future of Digital Media Conference, Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, Businessworld & exchange4media, spoke to CEOs on monetisation, fake news, consumer attention & much more

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 30, 2023 10:58 AM   |   3 min read

DNPA

At the e4m-DNPA Future of Digital Media Conference, a panel discussion with CEOs of top companies was held to discuss digital media and how the new generation of readers is influencing media houses and their ways of connecting with their audiences.

The panel was chaired by Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, Businessworld & exchange4media. On the panel were Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network; Puneet Jain, CEO, Hindustan Times; Hemant Jain, President and Business Head (Digital), Lokmat, and Sanjay Sindhwani, CEO, The Indian Express (digital).

Avinash Pandey spoke about the challenges in the digital era. “The biggest challenge today is reaching out to the consumer. When everybody has become a publisher and a broadcaster, how your authentic news reaches the consumer first, and how you monetize it best is the biggest challenge today in our industry.”

Speaking on the opportunities that the digital world has created for publishers, Puneet Jain said: “I think the biggest opportunity for our publishers’ communities is the tremendous interest and love we see from our users. All of us continue to track millions who are using our platforms to consume news on a daily basis. In fact, what we are seeing is a huge reinforcement towards credible journalism in these interesting times of a social world we are living in.”

Sanjay Sindhwani veered the discussion to the problem of fake news and how publishers and consumers together can fight it. “The opportunity is massive. But I think the cost is also massive. I think today what is happening is if the media business doesn't become viable, then we'll see a lot of fake news floating around. When you're trying to bait clicks, you try to provoke people with things, which may not be real or factual. So, I think that's the cost of it. And I think in a democracy, it's very important that people value good content and good news sources and learn to pay for it.”

Taking the discussion ahead, Hemant Jain spoke about how the short attention span of consumers is the biggest challenge for consumers today. “While monetization continues to be the lowest common denominator and the most common challenge for most news publishers across the world, I think if you keep the consumer at the centre of your entire ecosystem and the business model, there is a huge shift in consumer behaviour with regard to the attention span. So, if you look at human attention today it is the lowest. Now, how do you evolve yourself keeping the shift in consumer behaviour in terms of newer formats of news media content, which ensures that you are able to create the right connect with the consumer and thereby create a great value proposition is something which would which all of us would have to kind of today embrace as one of our bigger challenges.”

He ends his view by talking about first-party data as a big opportunity for media publishers and how they can monetise it. “The big opportunity I see is our investment of time, money and resource in building the first-party data because it's not just about collecting data, but it's about managing customer lifecycle. So, most of us complain about the lesser frequency of visitations in a month, lesser time spent and how do we increase frequency and time spent to increase a better value proposition for advertisers? Now, that's interesting, because we have to start thinking like B2C brands, where we start not only capturing consumer data, but also start serving content which is more relevant more contextual, and in the process, collect enriched data, which can be monetized or leveraged at a higher value or premium when it comes to advertising.”

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Twitter advertisers to know if ads seen by real users or bots

The platform has tied up with Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify to ensure that the ads are seen by potential customers

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 27, 2023 11:26 AM   |   1 min read

Twitter

Twitter has decided to team up with ad verification companies Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify to enusre that the ads are being seen by real people and not bots, media networks have reported.  

IAS officials were quoted as saying that the move was intended at giving marketers the "confidence to continue to invest in Twitter".

In another move to lure advertisers, Twitter had said end of last year that it would soon bring new controls to allow advertisers to prevent their ads from appearing above or below tweets with certain keywords.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk recently said that Twitter higher-priced subscription models will be completely free of ads.

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Recognition as a separate industry & more: All that creator economy wants from Budget 2023

Well-defined guidelines and relaxations in TDS for micro-influencers are some of the other demands of the industry

By Shantanu David | Jan 27, 2023 8:32 AM   |   5 min read

Aaj Tak becomes world's first news channel to cross 50 million subs on YouTube

The record-breaking milestone comes just three years after the channel crossed 10 million subscribers on the platform

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 25, 2023 9:50 PM   |   2 min read

aaj tak

Earlier this year, Aaj Tak became the first news channel globally to cross 50 million subscribers. Ms. Kalli Purie, Vice Chairperson, India Today Group, met Mr. Gautam Anand, Managing Director of APAC - YouTube, in Singapore to commemorate the special achievement. 
 
“Thank you so much, YouTube! This is just amazing. The team is already planning its way to 100 million so YouTube had better start designing the next button,” Ms Purie quipped to Mr Anand. “Trust has always been the foundation for audience engagement at AajTak. It’s no different with our YouTube channel, but on a much wider scale with hundreds of videos getting uploaded every day. We place equal emphasis on having new audiences discover our channel while ensuring loyal viewers revisit, and invest in figuring out what works on YouTube – whether this is a nuanced understanding of thumbnails or producing hero content frequently.” 
 
Aaj Tak started its digital journey by launching its YouTube channel in the year 2009, and started streaming news live on YouTube for the first time in 2017. The massive popularity gained by the channel subsequently led to its Diamond play button from YouTube in 2019 for crossing 10 million subscribers. Now, just three years later, Aaj Tak is the first news channel to reach 50 million subscribers on YouTube. 
 
“Constant experimentation with new formats like Shorts and investment into our Community page has really paid off, and consistently breaking stories has helped create a very loyal fanbase,” explained Ms. Purie. “Events like the Presidential Elections of 2022, Solar Eclipse and the Cricket World Cup just kept encouraging us to do better and better.”
 
YouTube has been at the forefront of India's mobile revolution, by powering the content and creator ecosystem and by propelling the massive upsurge of video streaming in the world's largest democracy. AajTak has also fast evolved its offering to meet new consumer needs, with the introduction of Shorts, and other constantly emerging insights on LIVE Streams. The channel now has a universe of committed audiences across TV, web, app and social platforms through compelling storytelling that’s tailored to individual platforms.
 

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'India will be one of the most powerful start-up ecosystems in the world'

A panel discussion at the e4m DNPA Digital Media Conference 2023 deliberated on 'Challenges before start-ups in the current digital ecosystem'

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 25, 2023 5:16 PM   |   4 min read

dnpa

India boasts one of the largest start-up ecosystems, enabling the dream of the country becoming a several-million-dollar economy. However, despite government measures to boost the start-ups – in terms of investments and profitability – there are challenges.

The topic of 'Challenges before Start-Ups in current digital ecosystem-Possibilities and Choices' was discussed during a session at the e4m DNPA Digital Media Conference 2023. The panel comprised Ajay Data, MD, Data Group of Industries; Murugavel Janakiraman, CEO, Bharat Matrimony; Ritesh Malik, Director, ADIF & Founder- Plaksha University; Rohan Verma, CEO and Executive Director, Map My India. The session was chaired by Ruhail Amin, Senior Editor, Businessworld & exchange4media.

Speaking about the challenges facing start-ups, Verma said, “Honestly, I think it is very clear that the entrepreneurial talent in India, especially in the digital space, is extremely high. I see no lack of capability. As we have said multiple times, the key challenge has been there because of monopolistic activities that have been suppressing the Indian digital ecosystem. That is the key challenge of our times and I'm pleased that some things are changing with regard to that. 

Malik presented his observations about the challenges that have cropped up in the last few years in the start-up ecosystem: “It took 125 years for Silicon Valley to become what it is. In India, we are leap-frogging the technology era. I think we are going to be one of the most intensely powerful start-up ecosystems and technology ecosystems.

Citing the success of the UPI system in India, he added: "Our mobile payment infrastructure is way ahead of developed nations. Just think of what we will do with the entire Ayushman Bharat digital health mission. We will be one of the most technology-savvy citizen programmes in the world. So the good part is, for the first time, the government is focussing. I think we are standing on a large opportunity. Having said that, technology regulation is important. Unfortunately, it is always falling behind the actual technological innovation. In my opinion, we need to develop a special ministry whose job would be to ensure that another East India Company does not happen again and that Indians are not to be taken for a ride and that our data remains ours; that we are not just a large digital democracy for other large monopoly companies to come, use, generate revenue but also to make sure that our MSME does not get squeezed.”

Singla noted, “Even while we are sitting here, we talk about start-up and start-up ecosystem, but Amar Ujala is a hyper-local newspaper and has a presence in Tier II and Tier III cities. There, education and awareness are still required. From a media perspective, there is a good amount of innovation that is still seen as a challenge. I would say that there is a lot of room for identifying the right business sustainability model.”

Speaking on the broader challenges that need to be addressed in the start-up ecosystem, Data said, “It is extremely important that all entities work together to ensure – whether it is mentoring or education or incubation centres or investments or subsidies or government support – that the frictions between things have to be reduced. And the knowledge about the availability of those resources has to be made very simpler and easy.”

Janakiraman, who joined virtually, spoke from a sectoral standpoint and touched upon the issues that need to be overcome to render a robust start-up ecosystem. He said, “Digital start-ups can significantly contribute to country growth. Today, Indian start-ups are not only limiting themselves to country boundaries but looking at global opportunities. The Internet, 15 years ago, was free and open. Anybody could set up an Internet business or a dotcom; Internet was not controlled by any organisation. Today, the shift has happened, we all know that. The majority of the traffic is happening through mobile apps. So, more than 90 per cent of the traffic happens through the two dominant players – Google and Apple. What are the implications? Today, they are not simply platform providers or access providers; today, they are the platforms as well as players. The challenge is that when the platform becomes a player, their interest changes. Because they are commercial entities and their primary objective is to make money. And because they are both platform and player, they start abusing dominance and that is not good for Indian start-ups nor Indian consumers.”

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Experts discuss competition laws governing digital media in India

At e4m-DNPA Future of Digital Media conference 2023, media industry leaders deliberate on topic, competition laws governing digital media- need for review

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 25, 2023 3:44 PM   |   4 min read

DNPA panel

At e4m-DNPA Future of Digital Media conference, industry experts came together for a panel discussion on ‘competition laws governing digital media- need for review’. The discussion was chaired by Dhanendra Kumar, former chairman of Competition Commission of India. The panelists were Karan Singh Chandhiok- Practice Head-Competition Law- Chandhiok and Mahajan; Pawan Duggal- Head- Pawan Duggal Associates; Parthasarthi Jha; Economic law practice; Avaantika Kakkar, Partner-Competition - Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas; Vaibhav Kakkar, Partner- Saraf and Partners; Abir Roy- co-founder- Sarvada legal, Anil Malhotra, Head- Public & Regulatory Affairs, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited. 

Kumar opened the discussion briefing the audience about the competition laws governing digital media in India and how they were help in accelerating the country’s economic growth.

Anil Malhotra joined the conversation, “Certain perspectives change when we move from linear to digital media, and we are governed by certain regulations in linear which are not duplicated in the digital domain. The organised media player expects a fair and transparent revenue share because the organised media invest a lot in people, infrastructure, and building networks.”

Karan Singh Chandhiok added, “We have good laws, but lack enforcement. Law creates a framework that is flexible enough to deal with eventualities. Besides looking at the competition laws, we should look at a broad picture that includes more information. From a business perspective, the three things to keep in mind while catching up and implementing laws are: predictability and certainty in enforcement, regulatory dialogue and unintended consequences of both legislations and enforcement.”

Abir Roy mentioned, “The biggest challenge is the enforcement of a particular law. Enforcement needs to be certain and the regulator needs to be more dynamic.

Joining the discussion, Avaantika Kakkar shared her views on digital media. “When the pandemic began and we did not get newspapers, we started reading content online. We evolved much during the pandemic and we witnessed the scenario of subscription-based news platforms. Digital players are creating opportunities, which result in access which was never explored before.”

On the legal system, she said, “We have a robust legal system, IP laws, and data protection laws, some laws are evolving, and amendments are being introduced. 

Kumar then asked Parthasarthi Jha to share how digital media is evolving and how the internet has obliterated geographical borders. On laws, Parthasarthi said, “the new law must be fabricated and addressed in a manner that must contain some base work.”

Pawal Duggal opined that internet has transformed human beings into data entities. “We all have become global authors, global transmitters, and global broadcasters of data, and in scenarios like such, we have to keep aside the traditional perceptions of media and should start looking at things from the digital media point of view,” he said.

Duggal said that chatgpt which has completely changed the landscape of digital media. “It is a revolutionary kind of algorithm that has shaken the entire world and which is probably going to impact the content being prepared by media organisations as it is going to be more AI-based.”

Talking about competition laws Vaibhav mentioned the mendment introduced by MIB recently on fake news
that talks about giving Press Information Bureau the responsibility to declare what is fake news. He said, “We need independent arbitrators to decide more on free speech.”

He also mentioned that India should not always copy the West while framing and implementing legislation. “India is a completely different country in terms of population count and other things. India needs evidence based laws and not perceptions-based laws,” he opined.

As concluding remarks, Dhanendra requested all the panellists to sum up pointers of the conversation. The key pointers were: sanitise publishers operating out from India to clear the ground for Indian digital players in fair revenue share; study the laws before enforcing to avoid adverse repercussions; law should be evidence-based and it should ensure fairness and reasonability among the market participants; the idea of fairness is more pervasive, it’s not limited to internet and digital media and it is important for marketers to be flexible to get the fair share in the business; the law should be fair and competition law is not the socialisation of private property; India require a dedicated law on digital media; India need to think carefully at the regulations.

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US sues Google, new lawsuit aims to break up tech giant's ad unit

Google contended that the lawsuit by the US DoJ would reverse years of innovation and harm the broader ad sector

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 25, 2023 7:57 AM   |   1 min read

google

Big Tech major Google has been sued by the United States Department of Justice for the second time over anti-competitive practices. This is the US DoJ's second antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant.

Google has been accused of dominating the digital ad market, according to people privy to the matter. The lawsuit will aim to dismantle the tech giant's ad-tech department over its monopoly in the digital ad space.

Reports say that the case will be filed in the federal court before the end of the week.

DoJ chief Jonathan Kanter reportedly said in a press conference that the lawsuit aims to hold Google to account for its "longstanding monopolies in digital advertising technologies that content creators use to sell ads and advertisers use to buy ads."

Google retorted by saying that the lawsuit by DoJ " attempts to pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector."

The tech giant doubled down by stating that the lawsuit is an attempt to "rewrite history at the expense of publishers, advertisers and internet users."

Google also highlighted the ad businesses and practices of its competitors Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, TikTok, Comcast and Disney but the government chose not to go after them.

The tech company is also accused of antitrust practices in India where the Competition Commission of India has slapped heavy penalties against it for abusing its dominance in the Android ecosystem.

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