Publishers will hardly get any money, if anything

Am 30. August 2017 - 14:03 Uhr von Tom Hirche

The publishers pushing for their new right a.k.a. the link tax want to be paid first and foremost by providers of news aggregators and search engines. They demand a fee for the provider's service of linking to their publications and bringing them visitors hence money. Despite the unmatched absurdity of this idea, what numbers are we actually talking about?

Danish media analyst Thomas Baekdal tried to calculate what publishers could earn from Google and has presented his findings on his blog. After making a few necessary assumptions, his result is that a publisher with 20 million pageviews per month would either get $140 based on Googles profit through its search service or $934 based on Google's revenue. No matter which one you take, it is a ridiculous small number that is not worth fighting for on a large scale. Baekdal concludes:

Even if publishers managed to convince EU politicians to do this, there is no money to be gained here. And all you do is destroy the openness of the internet. [...] My advice to you is to drop this whole discussion about a Google snippet tax, because even if you made it happen, it would cause a lot more harm than good... and you still wouldn't make any real money.

As Nate Hoffelder points out, Baekdal falsely assumed that Google would pay for every user's actual click. Instead, publishers could demand a fee for each and every display of one of their snippets. This means that Google's per research revenue of 3.7 cents (see Baekdal's calculation) needs to be divided between all publishers whose snippets are presented in each search results. Although one might argue that the number of snippet displays is much higher than the actual click-through rate, the aggregated amount of money that could be demanded will most certainly not be. Hoffelder's conclusion to this:

Not only was the idea of a snippet tax never going to fly, there's just no money to be had in the first place.

Even if the fee would be calculated differently (e.g. by being based on Google's whole net revenue/profit made in the EU) and/or amount to larger numbers, be reminded that Google has already shown little hesitation to pull the plug on its services when it shut down Google News Spain in reaction to the Spanish link tax. With regard to the last design changes to Google News, such a move might however not be necessary. In the end, a link tax will not fill the publishers' pockets but rather seriously damage the freedom of information on the web.

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