Last month, Google announced deals that will see it pay eight Canadian publishers — including The Globe and Mail, the Winnipeg Free Press and Village Media — to license their content on a product called Google News Showcase, launching this fall. The companies didn’t disclose the terms. It came on the heels of Facebook signing agreements with 14 of Canada’s upstart digital publishers for what it called its News Innovation Test, to include selected links on their pages that bring users to news sites. Again, the companies didn’t disclose the terms.
What explains the recent flurry of activity? In February, Australia passed a law requiring Facebook and Google to negotiate content deals with media outlets; if negotiations failed, the government would impose fees. Canada then signaled it would adopt a similar approach. Hence the deals.
On its face, it’s a smart strategy for the tech platforms. Why involve the government when they can strike deals on their own? However, they now face an unintended consequence: these secretive, one-off deals have united Canadian publishers new and old in demanding the federal government follow Australia’s lead.