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Google is getting the message... Publications across geographies are putting pressure on their governments to get tough. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: India’s largest media body - representing more than 1,000 newspapers with 71 million copies in circulation in 19 languages - has asked Google to share at least 85 per cent of the digital giant’s advertising revenue with publishers.

The demand from the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) came on Thursday in a letter written by its president L. Adimoolam to Google India vice-president and country head Sanjay Gupta.

Noting that Indian publishers continued to invest heavily to support “quality journalism with credible news, current affairs, analysis, information and entertainment”, Adimoolam said that the proprietary content generated out of this expensive and rigorous process ultimately provided Google its credibility and authenticity in India.

Clear lack of transparency

However, in return, Indian media publishers were facing a very opaque advertising system, as they were unable to get details of Google’s advertising value chain, he said.

“The Society insisted that Google should increase the publisher share of advertising revenue to 85 per cent, and also ensure more transparency in the revenue reports provided to publishers by Google,” the INS said in a statement made available to Gulf News. “The society has demanded Google should pay for news generated by the newspapers which employ thousands of journalists on the ground, at considerable expense, for gathering and verifying information.”

The letter was sent on the same day that Australia’s parliament passed a law to make Google and Facebook pay media companies for content on their platforms. Countries like the UK and Canada are also mulling similar laws.

“In the dialogue we are having with Google for the past three months, we are trying to figure out an appropriate monetisation model that would work out in favour of both parties,” Mohit Jain, vice-president of INS, told Gulf News in a phone interview from Mumbai. “Over time, if this approach does not work out, some publishers are also looking at working with the government for legislative support on the same.”

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Australian government has shown the way in taking on digital media giants and have them pay for part of the content they place on their platforms. Image Credit: Reuters

Fast paced growth

According to a FICCI-EY 2020 report, India’s digital news readership has grown to more than 300 million users and the country remains the world’s fastest-growing advertising market. Ad revenues of Facebook and Google in India rose to $1.58 billion in FY19, with the two companies garnering nearly 70 per cent market share of India’s online advertising space. According to Dentsu Aegis, India’s online ad spend is expected to reach $3.87 billion by 2022.

But beleaguered Indian media companies have seen major layoffs and shut down of operations since the pandemic-triggered lockdown last year, and are now looking up to the government to enact legislation similar to Australia to make Google and Facebook share ad revenues.

“It is also noted that Google has recently agreed to better compensate and pay publishers in France, the European Union and notably in Australia,” the INS said. “However, newspaper publishers [in India] are seeing their share of the advertising pie shrinking in the digital space, even as Google is taking a giant share of advertising spends,” the society said.

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India's news publishing industry is at a critical juncture. While digital readership has shot up significantly, there is limited gains on the revenue side for the content creators. Image Credit: AFP