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13 May 2022

New Academic Paper Finds News Content Drives £1bn In Annual UK Revenues For Tech Platforms

News content created by British publishers generates approximately £1 billion in UK revenues for Google and Facebook every year, a new paper from a leading academic has found.

Published by the News Media Association today, the new ‘Value of News to Digital Platforms in the UK’ paper by professor of economics at Cambridge University Matt Elliott has reignited calls for the Digital Markets Unit to urgently be given the powers it needs to level the playing field between news publishers and the platforms.

Drawing on previous studies as well as new analysis, the paper looked at the two main ways news contributes to Google and Facebook’s revenues - namely user engagement caused by news content that facilitates direct advertising, and user targeting data gathered from user interaction with news content - to estimate the UK revenue created.

Estimates based on company reporting indicate that Google earned £10.8 billion in the UK in 2021, while Facebook earned £5.3 billion but the digital platforms share little, if any, of these revenues with the publishers of the news content on which they rely.

NMA chief executive Owen Meredith said: “This timely study demonstrates the commercial importance and value of news publishers’ content to Google and Facebook and makes clear the urgent need for much greater trust and transparency in the digital marketplace.

“Following the Queen’s Speech and the draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, it is now essential that the DMU is given the statutory powers it needs to usher in a truly competitive digital marketplace as soon as possible. The new regime will see news publishers fairly rewarded for their investment in the journalism that delivers so much benefit to the public.”

Professor Elliott said: “News publishers are pillars of democracy, making significant investments to provide crucial information to the public on events shaping our society. News is also important for digital platforms, providing a stream of fresh and relevant content that keeps users engaged and returning.

“Estimates based on company reports indicate that between them Google and Facebook earn more than £16 billion a year in the UK. They share little, if any, of these revenues with the publishers on whose news content they rely.

“By considering how much revenue Google and Facebook might lose if news content were to be withheld, it is estimated that the value of news to the platforms is about £1 billion a year.

“If the public is to continue to be served with high quality news, the benefits from the investment in journalism made by news publishers should mainly accrue to them, not Google and Facebook. The fact that high quality news content generates wide benefits to society makes this problem acute.”