Think Meta’s News Link Block Was Bad? Just Wait Until Google Pulls the Trigger

There’s no denying that Meta’s pull out of news links was damaging. A similar move from Google, however, will be far worse.

When Meta began rolling out news link blocking in Canada in response to the Canadian link tax (Online News Act), it brought on many howls and screams from the large media companies. The large media companies and their associated lobby organizations launched three failed boycotts (who knows if a fourth failed boycott is waiting in the wings?) and even a laughable complaint to the Competition Bureau.

Of course, many critics predicted that the large media companies would get significantly hurt by this while the platforms would come out unscathed. Those predictions have pretty much come true to the letter. Facebook’s traffic remained unchanged while traffic to the media companies websites plunged. It drove home the point that publishers need platforms far more than platforms need publishers.

In all of this, there was no two ways about this: the lack of links on Facebook for publishers hurt the publishers. It was predictable since getting cut off from one of the largest websites on the planet was only going to mean pain for the people getting cut off.

The thing is, this isn’t where the large media companies pain ends. As you recall, Google similarly announced that it would be ending support for news links. Indeed, there are reports that suggest that Google has met with the government over 100 times in the past to try and work out something, but Google has walked away empty-handed, not even sure what their role is in all of this. What’s more, Google’s position hasn’t changed since their original announcement, either. There’s no sign that Google is going to somehow work something out. If anything, the fact that the government raised the cost of the link tax suggests that Google is being pushed further out of the door.

The thing to remember in all of this is that Google is not exactly a small website. It is, in fact, the most visited website on the planet. People have gone to Google to get information for decades now. It is a search engine that drives traffic to other websites. Ask any experienced web developer what it means to be kicked out of Google and they’ll probably tell you that it is basically a death sentence to your website. Unless you have a very specific business model in mind, you’re not going anywhere without at least some traffic from Google.

Statistics do back this up. Forbes has noted that 93% of global web traffic comes from Google:

9. A staggering 93% of global traffic comes from Google

Ninety-three percent of global internet traffic is driven by Google,[4] making it the dominant search engine in the world. With its advanced algorithms and user-friendly interface, Google has become the go-to source for billions of people searching for information, products and services online. The sheer size of the company’s user base and its influence on the internet make it a critical player in shaping the digital landscape.

Obviously, the picture is different for individual websites. Maybe one website has 80% of web traffic from Google. Maybe a different website has more like 50%. The numbers will vary, but the common thread is that a lot of traffic comes from Google.

So, whenever Google decides to pull the trigger (unless a miracle happens that stops that from happening), it’s going to not only cause a lot of pain for the large publishers, but it is going to be even worse for them as well. Chances are, there is more traffic coming from Google than there is traffic that came from Facebook and Instagram. So, it is going to hurt them a lot.

What’s worse is that this is going to come after Meta dropping news links on their platforms. So, you not only have the pain from Google dropping news links, but also the added pain of Meta having done the same thing on top of it all. Getting kicked off of one of the most visited websites on the planet is bad enough, but add the single most visited website on top of that? It’s going to get even nastier for the large publishers.

What will be interesting to see is how these sites cope. Already, with Meta dropping news links, some sites have already begun slowing operations, so Google doing the same thing could be the knockout punch for some of the smaller sites out there. The larger websites, in the mean time, will definitely feel the pinch as well. How well they’ll cope remains to be seen. Either way, it’s not going to be good.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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