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US publishers sue Facebook as ad revenues dry up

Lee Wolverton, executive editor of one of the estimated 200 US news groups suing Google and Facebook, said publishers had decided to act as newspaper ad revenues have fallen 82% in 16 years.

US publishers sue Facebook as ad revenues dry up
Photograph: Ben Mater on Unsplash.

Wolverton, who is executive director of HD Media, said: "That’s a stunning drop, and if the trends hold, we’d be projected to hit zero in five years. It shows that we are in a state of crisis, and we need to respond, and we need more than tax credits. We need to attack the problem, and that is that we’ve been choked off in digital advertising revenues by two companies operating a monopoly.”

Wolverton joined president and CEO of News Media Alliance David Chavern, Editor & Publisher reporter Gretchen Peck, and E&P’s publisher Mike Blinder to speak about the case on episode 115 of E&P Reports.

Whilst the Meta Journalism Project and Google News Initiative had kept many news outlets afloat with their funding, both Chavern and Wolverton are sceptical about the tech giants’ motivations.

“This co-dependent relationship amuses me,” said Wolverton, “because here’s how the relationship works, and this is borrowing from someone else, but the codependent relationship works in that we provide the blood. They’re the vampires, and they keep the blood warm, and they suck it up. And they keep us alive so they have the blood.”

Wolverton recounted a conversation he had with a publisher he’d known for a long time: “And he said, ‘I just don’t want to poke the bear.’ And I said, ‘You realise the bear is eating you up? It’s eating us all right now!’”

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