Events in Australia are catalysing an overdue conversation: how best to preserve a faltering access to a reliable way of learning about the ever-changing world or, in a word, news. Producing reliable, high-quality news has never been cheap and ever since technology firms became the mediators between producers and consumers of news, traditional media companies have found themselves increasingly cut off from their main source of revenue: advertising. Australia's recourse is a law that will require foreign tech companies, specifically Facebook and Google, to pay for news content that appears on their websites.
To show its opposition to the proposed law, Facebook blocked users in Australia from accessing and sharing news, whipping up a storm of outrage, before it reconsidered and returned to the negotiating table with Canberra. Google opted to clinch an agreement under which it will pay News Corp and two other Australian publishers undisclosed sums for content that it features on its "News Showcase" service. The deal protects Google from having to pay for news that appears on Google Search, the more lucrative part of its business. Facebook, which says it makes only a small fraction of its revenue from links to news articles, appeared to see little value in cutting such a deal with publishers.