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When fake news takes over

Fake news is big news. In that sense, it is no surprise that the term “fake news” was made “word of the year 2017” by Collins, following what the dictionary called its “ubiquitous presence” over the last 12 months. Sadly, trust in quality journalism by mainstream media, is under pressure

By: EBR - Posted: Monday, December 04, 2017

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The business models that the news media sector applies to its digital offerings depend on online advertising. And while European legislation might affect the ways that publishers can use online advertising as a funding model, there’s a clear issue when we look at the proliferation of fake new online, as providers of fake news are fishing for the same advertising revenues as quality news media.
The business models that the news media sector applies to its digital offerings depend on online advertising. And while European legislation might affect the ways that publishers can use online advertising as a funding model, there’s a clear issue when we look at the proliferation of fake new online, as providers of fake news are fishing for the same advertising revenues as quality news media.

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by Wout van Wijk*

As in any relationship a business establishes with a customer, trust is key. This is no different for the news media sector, who are amidst a transition towards securing a more digital future. In our industry, consumers generally have a strong connection with a certain news brand, on which they rely for bringing them reliable quality news content, in a format they identify with.

With the increase of news consumption through online channels, but also with the proliferation of online news channels of all sorts, this holds true even more. Publishers aim to maintain their transparent and reliable brands for the consumption high high-quality local, national and international news.

Bringing quality journalism to consumers, is expensive. Think about the time and travel of the journalists that need to be covered, the editing, setting up and maintaining the physical and digital distribution channels, and so on. It is also therefore very important that news brands remain well funded, to remain independent and to enable them to provide high quality, and relevant content to its readers.

I see an adequately funded and pluralistic media landscape as one of the key remedies against fake news.

Unfortunately, publishers are faced with the fact that it has become increasingly difficult to monetize their content online. Stricter rules on advertising will lead to a decrease in value of advertising as such and some upcoming European legislation could seriously hamper certain business models for the monetization of publishers’ content online.

On the other hand, the European Commission has acknowledged the imbalance between publishers and platforms in its recent copyright reforms and we are eagerly looking to correct that imbalance by establishing a publishers’ right, which would help publishers to better enforce their copyright online.

The business models that the news media sector applies to its digital offerings depend on online advertising. And while European legislation might affect the ways that publishers can use online advertising as a funding model, there’s a clear issue when we look at the proliferation of fake new online, as providers of fake news are fishing for the same advertising revenues as quality news media.

So, in an arena where we compete with the platforms for advertising revenue, fake news becomes yet another layer of competition, by players that don’t play by the rules as a principle.

Fake news is not a new issue as such, but the power of the platforms has significantly amplified the magnitude of the problem.

The role of online platforms as amplifiers of disinformation is one that needs to be discussed urgently. I’m not necessarily calling for regulation, but I would want to see them step up to plate when it comes to their Corporate Responsibility.

Perhaps we should also realise that the issue of fake news online, and its disruptive powers, is one of which we only recently started to understand its implications. It is therefore that I’m grateful to Commissioner Gabriel for prioritizing this issue.

*Wout van Wijk is Executive Director of News Media Europe (News Mews Europe represents over 2200 titles of newspapers, radio, tv and internet. News Media Europe is committed to maintaining and promoting the freedom of the press, to upholding and enhancing the freedom to publish, and to championing the news brands which are one of the most vital parts of Europe’s creative industries)

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