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Lawmakers Want to Protect Local Newspapers From Google, Facebook (wsj.com)
105 points by choppaface on Oct 28, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments


Any protocol or mechanism written by Google is surely to give it more control over the Internet, hence advertising and hence revenue.

Not only AMP, but HTTP 2, QUIC, DNS over HTTPS are all things that Google wanted to have control over. I certainly hope the free internet moves into Tor and the rest of the dark web, and is certainly not indexable by Google.

Also, stop using Google Chrome if you wish to do the web a favor.

Android is the worst part of their monopoly. They control everything on the phone down to the hardware.

Mobile desperately needs an "IBM compatible" moment to usher in free use of other operating systems

Thank you for sharing this :)

The problem is that Google seems to be only one writing good software. If you have used Tizens of mobile vendors or customised Androids they tend to be crap. Google keeps software quality up, forces vendors to roll out patches.

Android itself is open source. The issue is Google play services that provides a lot of functionally that many apps rely on. You can run something like lineage os or graphene os, it works great for basic phone and browser functionality.

Agreed. But I think we should go back to Gopher for content and the old wild west style Internet which wasn't consolidated into silos like now. It's cheap, efficient, understandable and obtuse enough not to be able to leverage people into silos for commercial purposes.

Change is hard but you're right, need to degoogle, degoogle, and degoogle.

>Also, stop using Google Chrome if you wish to do the web a favor.

It's very risky and tricky, but I think it is completely opposite.

Do not use Firefox/DDG or other non-google competitors if you wish to do the web a favor.


>to do the web a favor (by splitting Google).

I hate AMP. It is just a tech to give google more control. Anything to helps kill it off is a good thing. It is possible to create pages that load fast on mobile without it.

> It is possible to create pages that load fast on mobile without it.

Sure, except few people do. And Google seized the opportunity here. Most of the times, the AMP site is faster, there is real value added for the end user, and Google used that positive experience to sneak in their stuff. It would never have happened if sites were fast to begin with.

Like I always say about AMP, there are two parts to it: some sort of enforced guidelines that ensure your pages are fast. This is the good part. And there is Google stuff. But you know what, AMP is open source, so take the code, strip off the Google parts and you have a website that is even faster, and independent. That's something I've never seen done, and yet, that's probably the best for the end user.

Instead, most website owners who complain about AMP do it for the "wrong" reasons. They want to load up their site with 10 different trackers, popups and other annoyances. They don't care about your privacy or going through Google servers, in fact, they most likely already have Google tracking and ads enabled in their non-AMP site.

That's the saddest part, because of years of laziness and overzealous marketing, AMP is actually good for users.

> Most of the times, the AMP site is faster

Except AMP sites usually aren't faster. They just get preloaded[0]. If google preloaded non-AMP sites (which is technically feasible, there has been browser extensions doing this since ages ago), they too would load "faster", fancy that!

There's no good part to AMP. It's bullshit that doesn't really work. Sure in absolute metrics, your website might be "faster" simply by following AMP's rule, but it'll still usually be way too slow without google's cheats.

You know what works to make websites load faster? Not including megabytes of javascript, properly configuring your server to compress the data, keeping images at a reasonable resolution, and preferably under the fold.

The only thing AMP was ever good for is give Google a convenient excuse to seize control of content distribution, giving them even more insight on users' browsing habits and whatnot. And golly did it work.

[0]: https://ferdychristant.com/amp-the-missing-controversy-3b424...

> Except AMP sites usually aren't faster. They just get preloaded[0]. If google preloaded non-AMP sites (which is technically feasible, there has been browser extensions doing this since ages ago), they too would load "faster", fancy that!

This is not feasible in a security conscious way. Preloading leaks metadata (at a minimum things like IP address, and probably much more for a useful implementation) to third party hosts without any user interaction.

Even without preloading, as I understand it, amp is still faster than your "average" site since it enforces decent performance hygiene. Yes, performance conscious owners can create slightly faster sites, but most don't. The 0.0s load times for preloaded sites and potential to cache is just butter for an end user.

[I work at Google but have nothing to do with AMP].

It is cheaper just to use AMP than hiring a senior web developer to fix a website stuffed with crap.

Google could have incentivised fast loading mobile pages just fine without AMP, by promoting fast pages in search results, or perhaps putting a red 'Slow' tag in search results next to slow pages.

Oddly, they didn't do that.

_anything_ ? That's a scary precedent you've given there. You want a poorly-written law that can be used and abused to disallow lots of other websites, including archive.org (it's easy enough to imagine) to get rid of AMP?

Be careful what you wish for.

I’ve used amp and non amp links. Even though folks could make non amp faster it simply isn’t. The difference is night and day. The amp hate on HN is mostly non user driven I think - amp is NOTICEABLY faster / lighter and few users care about their URL bar - chrome is already simplifying that as well for all sites

Reddit's AMP is terrible, I wish I could opt-out.

Reddit's AMP implementation makes me think they genuinely stopped giving a fuck about users.

They must have calculated they can't survive at their current ad impression rates, hence the forcing people onto their app at literally any cost these days.

It wouldn't be as much of a problem if the app actually worked well, but it doesn't

Are there more ads on the app?

More ad tracking too, I suspect. I'd imagine Reddit's audience is fairly heavy on ad/privacy blocking; can't do that in the app.

With autoplaying video with sound, I have to unpause my music after an ad. On the plus side, one brand (AFAICT) enabled comment section on their ad.

They push awards and coins heavily on the app. Like you get constant prompts to spend money on fake karma, digital coins and stuff

old.reddit.com? I think they also have an option for it when you are logged in.

And i.reddit.com for mobile

Not as fast AMP given a website like google can’t safely preload and prerender a normal website’s content.

Yeah but sometimes it gets around paywalls.

free non-AMP >> free AMP >> paywalled non-AMP

This won't save them, the local newspaper is doomed. Local papers have always functioned as a sort of news aggregator. They aggregate local news together with national news and serve you that as a sort of localized feed of information. It's similar to Reddit; the NYT and national news are like /r/worldnews (purely in topic, not content) and local papers are like your city's subreddit. Letters to the Editor are like comments.

Theyre actually so similar that Reddit et al are killing them. Reddit even often has local reporting from Redditors; I find out about lots of happenings directly from Redditors.

I think national news will likely survive in some form because of the investigation required (and the legitimacy granted by an organization like the NYT reporting on it), but local papers are going to go the way of the pay phone.

To chime in: The local newspaper went from being delivered 7 days a week as a folded newspaper to being delivered 4 days a week in a tabloid form that's about 60% the size of the old format.

We cancelled then, and probably a lot of other people did, too.

We recently subscribed for 1 year as a gesture to "save our local newspaper". As part of that, we get the Sunday paper for free. Our last one is still in the plastic wrapper just inside the door. 4 days after we got it, none of us (2 parents, 2 high school students, 1 college student) have bothered to open it.

Our local paper is part of the Advance chain. Their website is terrible and it doesn't seem to be updated very often. Probably they have some sort of PDF format that is hard to use or even worse a custom app that basically acts as a magnifying glass on a small section of the page.

What I want from a local paper: local stuff. I don't care about their opinion on national issues and The NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, etc. are just a click away.

In another universe, newspapers could have capitalized on the fact that they had <subscribers> by making free online ads, discussion forums, etc. Yes, there'd be some moderation issues but it's a lot easier if you've got paying customers. Don't want to subscribe? Can't comment. Can't post an ad. Maybe can't respond to an ad.

They pissed that all away by making their content free. Now their content is basically worthless and there's nowhere for them to go.

> They pissed that all away by making their content free

Sounds as if you're saying they should have added paywalls? (Sooner than want most maybe did?)

But at the same time, you mention ads?

Truly local newspapers, which cover local news and run ads from local businesses, don't seem to be doomed.

One of the biggest hits that newspapers have taken is not from the likes of google or facebook but rather craigslist/ebay/etc. which replaced classified ads.

Google gives special preference to AMP sites in search, images and google news. Google is also removing non-AMP URLs from Google News. fucking everything is loaded from their servers nowadays

Amp, for whatever you might feel about it, is the best content loading experience for people with poor internet. Launch up an AVD and set it to use a 3g roaming profile and try and load up NY Times AMP and non-AMP.

I'm not a fan of the implementation personally but something like this needs to exist for developing markets. I didn't know how bad this was until I started working with someone in Brazil and saw he has 2Mbps internet. His internet is faster than some in China and india.

All Google has to do is de-rank slow sites and everything would be fast within weeks.

But they won't. Because ad tech is most of what's making sites slow. They would end up de-ranking sites using lots of Google advertising.

Speed is just a shitty excuse to force AMP on everyone. There's countless other levers they could pull if they actually cared about performance

Wouldn't the invisible hand of the market solve this?

If your site is slow, either the share of good customers plummet and you fix it, and customers you don't want leave and you are happy.

The parent post still makes a fair point. I can't understand why they were down voted, tbh. I more agree with your reply (custom optimisation and consumer choice), but some W3C standard to encourage the creation of highly optimised pages, perhaps an extension to web workers, might be a good idea.

As for the problem of the existence of AMP, I don't know how you change that. It might actually be 'to big to fall's now, unfortunately.

AMP is the "invisible" hand of the market solving this - a private company taking up an initiative to make internet usable for people who aren't MacBook 5G toting Sillicon Valley hipsters.

It's also a perfect example why "invisible hand of market" can be an absolutely terrible and abusive way of trying to fix infrastructure for people who aren't privileged rich people.

> use a 3g roaming profile and try and load up NY Times AMP and non-AMP

2Mbps internet should be more than adequate for loading an article's text and an accompanying image via basic HTML.

Unfortunately....the first thing that slows sites down is loading 6 MB of garbage (junk from dozens of domains, ad networks, tracking, "analytics", who knows what else?) to view a few paragraphs of text and a single image.

Then there are the sites with usually unrelated, irritating auto-playing videos that basically nobody wants but you can't turn off even if you've "disabled" autoplay in the browser...

Why did we decide to adopt these worst practices? Maybe we decided at some point that the commercial web was a bad idea and should be made as unusable as possible to discourage its use.

ads is literally destroying internet and these ads company are milking so much profit and we cannot do anything otherthan using adblocker and firefox :(

That is a great point. We are creating an Internet-nightmare in a Red Queen's race. Advertise companies compete in price to get the best target audience increasing prices and lowering value. Users are bombarded with creepy ads that follow them around the internet and allow to all kind of abuses. Google/Facebook profit from both sides dictating the rules and create echo chambers that feet in hate and outrage to increase views. Quite a dystopia all to send ads to people, that were already receiving them anyway.

Yes, it seems that ads are at the root of many problems (e.g. user tracking, overconsumption). Perhaps this is what the senate should be addressing instead.

However, currently ads are also a driving force behind the internet.

Yeah, but they got what they wanted. Every news site enabled AMP, and nobody will change it back now.

The media cycle is a money grab anyway you slice.I couldnt careless about the misfortune of any news medium while things are in the current state. Everyone of them prioritize their news coverage based on clicks. 2020 has been the gold rush for all media big or small capitalizing on a nation that is falling apart.A complete overhaul of media is needed. Not this tid for tat. Put some energy in the places that matter.

Google will just point out than any website can block their scraping with a robots.txt and they will just say they will stop using news if they are forced to pay.

And from one of the articles linked:

> But the immediate boost in readership won’t offset the virus’s brutal impact on the pillars holding up the business, publishing executives say. Local advertising spending could fall this year by at least a quarter, amounting to a decline of more than $30 billion, according to one estimate.

The issue is more than online advertisements aren't very lucrative (although Google's monopoly in that area could play a role in that and gives them some power to retaliate).

Frankly, I just don't see the general population willing to pay as much for news as it did in the past. The big stories will be available for free somewhere and even local news can be found on Twitter/social media.

>Frankly, I just don't see the general population willing to pay as much for news as it did in the past. The big stories will be available for free somewhere and even local news can be found on Twitter/social media.

The Wall Street Journal seems to be making its paywall work. I think the New York Times's semi-paywall is doing OK, but that's more to do with the massive surge in readers it gained after ramping up its attacks on Trump after the 2016 election.

In specialty publications, The Athletic is doing well enough to hire new beat writers. Patch is making a profit with ad-driven hyperlocal news.

Otherwise, I agree that straight news publications that aren't the Times or the Journal (and maybe the Washington Post, but it also benefits from anti-Trump sentiment, even aside from the bottomless Bezos cash)—that is, without the brand name—just don't seem viable. When the brand-name publications handle national and international news, Reuters and AP handle other stuff, and Craigslist took away classifieds 20 years ago, where is the room for the average city journal? The answer that most sensible people came to years ago is "There isn't". The only other viable model seems to be ownership by a) nonprofit charities, or b) wealthy people who enjoy the attention from owning the local newspaper.

I would guess wealthy people who own multiple not-local-to-them newspapers are funding the legislators in TFA.

Welcome this. I switched over to FF only because of AMP.

I still remember reading article about how Google tried their first quasi AMP service around 2005 or something like that

As far as I've read they were serving pages to people with other people's data like "Hello, {username}" and stuff, generally security nightmare.

Unfortunely I do not remember how it was named...



>Google Web Accelerator sent requests for web pages, except for secure web pages (HTTPS), to Google, which logged these requests. Some web pages embedded personal information in these page requests.

>Google received and temporarily cached cookie data that your computer sent with webpage requests in order to improve performance.

>Google crawled every web page it came across leading it to inadvertently deleting web pages.[1]

>In order to speed up delivery of content, Google Web Accelerator sometimes retrieved webpage content that the user did not request, and stored it in the Google Web Accelerator cache[2]. Some law experts and IT authors affirmed that Google would "combine personal and clickstream data with existing search history data contained in Google's own cookie"[3]

>Google Web Accelerator is no longer available for, or supported by, Google as of January 20, 2008. As of 2008 the Google Web Accelerator is not compatible with Firefox 3.0. Google Web Accelerator is still available for download from other websites. The Labs experiment launched in 2005 was discontinued and no longer supported by Google, since January 2009

AMP is bad. I’m not sure if AMP policed by the FTC is better.

It's super weird that news aggregators aren't directly funding OC. How does "news" work when most of the content creators go out of business? (Edit: Huh. I guess we already know, because that's exactly what happened.)

Compare news to other OC, like books, music, video, podcasts, and apps.

Musicians get paid. Kinda. (I'm not smart enough to figure out if Apple/Beats is some kind of label, meaning underwriting (?) OC.) And music videos definitely get ad revenue sharing (YouTube & Vevo).

Book authors get paid. Kinda. Isn't one of Amazon's properties now an imprint, or publisher, or whatever that segment's underwriters (?) called?

Video definitely gets paid. Streaming, snippets (Vine and now TikTok style), vlogging, sports, episodic TV, movies, miniseries (Netflix), etc. EVERYONE is paying for OC video. It's a strategic differentiator.

Podcasters get paid. (Per power laws distribution.) Like video, EVERYONE is trying to get into the game, funding OC.

Ditto apps.


So why is "news" different?

If I was Apple, today, I'd set up some kind of huge trust with the sole purpose of funding any and all new "journalism" OC. No strings attached.

I'd open the flood gates for funding OC. Huge, big, and small. Copy every kind of philanthropic funding idea. Have a huge fund for traditional news organizations serving int'l, national, state, and local markets. Do whatever Corp for Public Broadcasting does for PBS. Dump money into other trusts funding OC, directly or thru partnerships. One off grants for indie bloggers and investigative reporters. Recurring funding for activism style journalism. I'd reinvent "new bureaus" to recreate "embedded" journalism, so reporters can get paid to cover city hall.

I'd create infrastructure for fund raising. So other listener supported media can more easily replicate the success of KEXP.

I'd figure out a "startup school" incubator so that wannabe working journalists and bloggers learn how to get paid. Music and film and writing communities have their own ecosystems of conventions, workshops, meetups. Fund the same for journalism.

And just like the new style purpose driven philanthropists, I'd have some kind of metrics. Internal and external. Rewarding both effort and successes. Imagine funding an arts critic, say someone(s) reporting on the ballet and dance community. Their victory conditions would be very different than someone reporting on current events.

Edit: Two more ideas: Endowments for schools of journalism. Create and fund more awards, prizes.


It's painfully unobvious to me why journalism, reporting isn't being funded. Google and Facebook benefit tremendously, economically, from OC.

Are these parasites worried they'll kill their hosts?

Why suggest Apple? I dunno. Two reasons.

It just seems to me that they'd understand best how to benefit from PBS style shoutouts like "This programing was made possible thru the generous support of Apple Community Trust and other supporters just like you."

And like privacy, their hands-off relationship with journalism OC would be a terrific "brand laddering" strategy that Facebook (Zuck) and Google (Page, Brin) are unable to replicate, because they are constitutionally incapable of ceding control. Seeing how Bezos seems to have managed Wash post, future Bezos may have something closer to enlightened altruism.

I can kinda imagine Jack Dorsey creating a trust for OC. His recent giving pledge org is impressive. But given Twitter's continued schizophrenia, I just don't think he has a compelling (reality based) thesis or worldview for journalism. And insert the cliche about asking someone who created the problem to then turnaround and fix the problem.

Bonus third reason: Maybe Apple would be better are coaxing journalists to optimize for Apple News. Something like WWDC for written OC.

Thoughts? Ideas? Reactions?

> Video definitely gets paid. Streaming, snippets (Vine and now TikTok style), vlogging, sports, episodic TV, movies, miniseries (Netflix), etc. EVERYONE is paying for OC video. It's a strategic differentiator.

Most don't. You need to have a nontrivial following on youtube to make any money, and a relatively significant one to make nontrivial amounts of money. Unless you get millions of views per day (YT, or tens of millions on tiktok), your only path to good income is external brand deals.

You can look into the tiktok creator fund controversies recently for this. Tiktok created a "community fund" that paid creators. Creators who joined found that their viewership dropped when they joined the fund, and they made less money than expected. Most mid sized creators left, and the going theory is that the largest tik tok'ers (your Damelios and Derulos) make the majority of their income from special deals that aren't available to the average creator.

All of which is to say that funding for high quality content directly through the platform is usually not sustainable (see also: music streaming platforms paying pittances), so high quality OC is funded via specialized deals or other processes, like subscriptions or external advertising deals. So journalists are way ahead of the game there.

Will read about TikTok's community fund. Thank you.

I assumed that there's at least some OC on TikTok (and others?) getting paid. Those successful influencers I keep reading about.

What's the long term plan for these "platforms" like TikTok, DoorDash, Uber, etc if the laborers don't get paid? I simply don't know.

It does seem the "sharing economy" grift is evergreen. IRL, MLMs and other grifts seem to wax and wane, but never really go away.

I'd like this to happen. Not sure Apple would see it this way, particularly since they have a certain relationship with Google that is riven with quid pro quo's.

Also, people at Apple might have other ideas about where to fling their cash.

How much did you say this would cost? To save journalism from extinction. Per annum?

I was just wondering how to size the imaginary Apple Community Trust (ACT) fund.

Provisionally assume peak journalism in the 1970s was 200,000 reporters.

Let's low ball double that for production and support (proofreading, factcheckers, web masters). +400,000.

Add 20% for admin overhead. +120,000.

So aspirational "full" employment is 620,000.

Guesstimate $120k yearly benefits (salary, healthcare, coffee).

Punt on expenses (phones, laptops, gas, office rent).

So it'd cost $74.4b / year to have "full employment", in the USA.

ACT has the goal to seed 1% of all journalism, of whatever variety.

Like most others, they want to share the risk, meaning they'll seed and match, but rarely fully fund, and typically max at 25%. (Successful fund raising is good social proof signal of merit.)

$74.4b x 1% x 25% = $1.86b

So ACT commits to ramping up to granting $1.86b per year. Some funding channels will ramp up quicker than others.

OK. Those headcount might be high for USA, but if ACT acts globally then perhaps the numbers are in the ballpark.


"From 2008 to 2019, overall newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 23%, according to the new analysis. In 2008, there were about 114,000 newsroom employees – reporters, editors, photographers and videographers – in five industries that produce news: newspaper, radio, broadcast television, cable and “other information services” (the best match for digital-native news publishers). By 2019, that number had declined to about 88,000, a loss of about 27,000 jobs."

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