Google slams $600m Australian news bill


Google Australia has refused calls for the company along with social media giant Facebook to pay $600 million a year to Australian news companies.

The news follows an earlier story in April, in which Australia’s treasurer Josh Frydenberg, confirmed the government was working on a new code that will force OTTs to pay media companies for use of its content.

In a blog post, Mel Silva, managing director and VP at Google Australia made a number of counter arguments.

According to Silva, most of the $600 million figure assumes that news accounts for 10% of Google’s gross revenues in Australia, which is not the case.

Her first argument is that the direct revenues Google makes from News content in Search is in fact very small.

“Google last year generated approximately AU$10 million in revenue—not profit—from clicks on ads against possible news-related queries in Australia,” she said.

Adding that the bulk of its revenues come from “queries with commercial intent”.


Time is precious, but news has no time. Sign up today to receive daily free updates in your email box from the Data Economy Newsroom.

In the indirect sense, she maintains that the economic value is also very small saying: “Users come to Google for many things, whether it’s ‘how to’ videos, recipes, sport, weather, outfit ideas, or home insurance.”

“News is a very small part of this content and represents only a tiny number of queries — in the last year, news-related queries accounted for just over 1% of total queries on Google Search in Australia.”

Silva also pointed out that there already exists a  “substantial two-way value exchange” in which Google sends people back to Australian news websites, giving publishers the opportunity to further monetise their content.

“In 2018 Google Search accounted for 3.44 billion visits to large and small Australian news publishers for free,” she explained.

Her last point is that Google has for a long time found ways to support journalism, not because of its role in “educating and informing Australians, as well as its importance in strengthening democracy”.

“We have for years partnered with news organisations and paid to host content where we show it in full,” she adds.

Silva says that this new code will have real life implications for how users search and find content and as discussion with the ACCC and Government, continue “it’s important to base decisions on facts, not inaccurate numbers and unfounded assertions.”

Read the latest from the Data Economy Newsroom: