In battle with digital giants, looking for a 'safe harbor' in Congress

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One of the biggest frustrations when Danielle Coffey is lobbying on Capitol Hill is the widespread misunderstanding of the newspaper industry.

“They think we’re ‘struggling’ because we’re losing readership,” said Coffey, News Media Alliance’s general counsel and senior vice president, strategic initiatives. In fact, she notes, newspaper readership has increased ten-fold since the internet became ubiquitous.

“The demand is there. The interest is there. What’s not there is the monetization of quality content,” she said. “Someone is making money – it’s just not us.”

That someone is Google and Facebook. “We get 67 percent of referrals from Facebook and Google – and yet we get just 16 percent of the revenue from our content,” Coffey noted.

The newspaper industry is looking for Congressional approval of legislation that would give it a four-year “safe harbor” from antitrust laws to negotiate a fairer revenue arrangement with the digital giants.

Bottom line: The bill has bipartisan sponsors and has been the subject of a hearing in the House. But the specter of impeachment and the upcoming election is likely torpedoing hopes of getting the bill passed in early 2020.

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