Google Unveils News Showcase As Australia Finalizes Link Tax Law

Australia has been a leading country in recent months pushing the link tax law. Google has responded by releasing News Showcase.

For about a year now, there has been a very public fight between Australia and news aggregators. Australia, at the behest of big publishing corporations, has been pushing for a link tax law. The law has been dubbed a News Media Bargaining Code, though the tech world pretty much knows it as a link tax. This in spite of all the evidence that clearly points out what a bad idea this all is for everyone involved.

Facebook responded by threatening to remove their news feeds from the country. More recently, Google threatened to pull their search services out of the country as well.

One of the core arguments by the big media corporations is that Google “doesn’t pay their fair share” for, uh, sending them traffic and pumping up their ad revenue and subscriptions. It obviously makes no sense in any practical term, but that’s the logic that the big corporate media organizations are running with anyway.

That core argument that Google is unwilling to pay news organizations has been effectively kneecapped, however. Google has unveiled a News Showcase which does pay news organizations to have their sites linked to. From 9to5Google:

Google has a $1 billion plan to pay publishers for content that appears in a cross-service “News Showcase” product. This is the company’s preferred route to support journalism, and comes as it’s locked in a dispute with Australia over an upcoming requirement to essentially “pay for links.” Google News Showcase was just surprisingly announced for Australia.

On Friday morning in Australia, Google said it was “rolling out an initial version of the product to benefit users and publishers in Australia.” It’s specifically focusing on “leading regional and independent publishers.”

The Canberra Times, The Illawarra Mercury, The Saturday Paper, Crikey, The New Daily, InDaily, and The Conversation

Participating News Showcase publishers receive a set monthly fee for curating their articles for News Showcase, and in some cases for providing access to articles behind their paywall so that readers can see the value of becoming subscribers and publishers can build a relationship with readers.

This latest move also undermines the big corporate publishers operating in Canada as well. During their propaganda campaign to compel the government to institute a destructive link tax law, big publishers were arguing that Google refuses to pay publishers. This move effectively proves otherwise as well.

There is, of course, a problem with this latest move as well. Some speculate that the reason why Google is willing to go along with this crazy idea is because it can afford to do so. If you’re one of those who have been really hoping that maybe, someday, government will finally “reign in” “big tech”, this development could also further entrench companies like Google. So, if you are a small start up with a bold new idea to reshape the world of search, this latest development could present a new major hurdle. We now know that the cost barrier for entry can be a billion dollars if you want to support a search engine that finds news articles.

That, of course, is a far cry from how Google started up. Famously, Google started life on a couple of servers sitting in someones garage. It was just an idea of simplifying the web portals of the day into a single search bar. If it cost a billion dollars to service that idea, Google would never have started up in the first place.

As a result of this, if you are hoping to see competition in the search marketplace, the only other players that could possibly fill those shoes are already established players. The only other option is an initiative backed by deep pockets. What coding goes into it doesn’t really matter when it comes to starting something up.

Some speculate that the ulterior motive here is to ensure that any possibility of competition is permanently sidelined in the process.

At any rate, this might very well solve one problem, but create a much more fundamental problem in the process. What all this means for the rest of the Internet is unclear at this stage.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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