A forthcoming UK regime on the relationship between publishers and platforms, certain to include Google and Facebook, will seek to replicate the payments achieved in Australia. However, the principles, design and precise process are still to be revealed by the Government

Facebook’s News Tab and Google’s News Showcase license content from publishers (including paywalled content) and direct traffic to their sites, although industry tensions remain high

Google Search is the elephant in the room because, while Facebook is a service to its users, search is a utility: making news more important to its offering, and explaining why Google’s commitment to the news industry runs deeper—and for the long term

Apple's News and News+ service to iOS users in the UK, US, Canada and Australia has attracted many ad-funded and paywalled news publishers since its launch in 2015

Publishers’ 'opt-in' to its walled garden environment to reach underserved demographics on their own sites and raise brand awareness, and more recently, take advantage of the reduced commission on subscriptions sold through the App Store, with Apple taking 15% instead of 30%

For Apple, the priority is to improve the user experience, ultimately driving sales of iOS devices, although its engagement with news is only a minor source of revenue compared to games. We regard Apple News as being mainly a device to buttress its reputation in those selected markets where it faces political and regulatory pressures, explaining its limited geographic roll-out

Streaming had a strong 2021 with royalties to rightsholders, labels and music publishers increasing by 24% to $16.9 billion (IFPI). Spotify drove the segment’s rise as the leading service by users and subscribers (422m and 182m) followed by subscription services Apple Music and Amazon Prime Music, while YouTube is both ad-supported and subscription

Spotify’s 2021 revenue growth of 22% was powered by user growth (+18%) around the world on the subscription (16%) and ad-supported tiers (19%). User growth represented a deceleration from the pandemic-induced exceptional rise of 27% from 2019 to 2020

Spotify reports royalties generated by artists on its Loud and Clear platform. The number of artists in 2021 generating material revenues—over $10,000—increased by 24% to 52,600. 28% are ‘self-distributing artists’ using services such as Distrokid, TuneCore, CD Baby—the number almost trebled since 2017

 

 

 

Epic Games, maker of mega-hit Fortnite, sued Apple over alleged antitrust violations around App Store rules and Apple’s 30% tax on in-app transactions. A decision could come soon, though it will be contested on appeal.

The implications of the case could be far-reaching, as Apple and other tech companies like Google design their platforms to extract high-margin revenue from the transactions they facilitate, including news subscriptions: a five-year basic in-app subscription to The Times costs £885, of which Apple takes £158. 

It comes in the context of a flurry of debate and decisions around tech antitrust and consumer protection: new laws may ultimately be needed, but regulators in the US and UK are proving they can be creative with their existing tools. 

Apple is bringing in privacy changes on iOS that could hurt ad-funded apps. 

Responding to platforms’ legitimate push for user privacy is a trial for regulators in the midst of building new online antitrust regimes. 

Antitrust rulings are chipping away at the App Store’s stringent terms of use, but reforms will keep it at the centre of the iOS universe. 

Spotify paid $5 billion in royalties last year to the music industry. Critics claim the $0.0038 per-stream average royalty rate is too low. However, this is largely due to high volumes of ad-funded listening, a core part of Spotify’s freemium model, and a defence against piracy. 

To silence the critics, the “Spotify Loud & Clear” site presents data on the distribution of industry royalties, which are heavily skewed to established artists. Only the top 5% of artists generate annual industry royalties above $1,000, though they take home less under their deals. 

The remaining 95% of artists on Spotify generate under $1,000 a year and use the platform mainly to reach fans that attend live gigs, their primary source of income, now halted by the virus. These artists’ problem is digital discovery, as Spotify’s playlists push hits rather than the midlist. 

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Amazon’s recent deals with Apple in TV, music and device sales mark a turning point after a decade of frosty relations

The context for this involves shifting priorities at both firms, growing pressure on Apple’s iPhone business, and rivals in common — first and foremost Google, but also the likes of Netflix and Spotify

The uneasy alliance helps both companies consolidate their strengths in the platform competition over media and the connected home — but trouble already brews

Even though Facebook is not a producer of news, 6.5 million UK internet users claim to mainly source their news from the platform. Posts and shares by friends in the user's network, in the context of Facebook's algorithm, determine the order of stories in the personalised News Feed, removing the control of the news agenda that publishers have for their websites

Premium publishers operating a paywall (The Times, The Financial Times) have a lower key approach to Facebook than publishers generating advertising revenue from referral traffic to their websites or from on-platform consumption of Instant Articles. The latter will seek to stimulate social media engagement, optimising stories through attention-grabbing headlines, and installing Facebook’s share and like buttons on their websites

Case studies of the news stories that were prominent on Facebook (measured by likes, comments and shares) in the periods leading up to the Brexit Referendum and General Election 2017 votes respectively demonstrate that newspaper brands (the Express for Brexit, and The Guardian for the General Election) achieved the highest reach on Facebook during these periods, despite being ranked below other news brands (BBC in particular) in terms of traffic to their websites

Facebook content shares suggest that misinformation had broad reach during both US and UK political campaigns, but outright fake news was rare, particularly in the UK 

Mis- and disinformation by both established and new publishers was distributed on Facebook, but monetisation took place predominantly off-site, and content was distributed by a wide range of search and social platforms 

Facebook has acted to limit the reach of disinformation, but can’t and shouldn’t be expected to do so alone as digital news distribution touches on complex questions including information and democracy, media literacy and heterogeneous cultural and social norms

The temporary cool-off in hype around VR following a very buzzy 2016 is not reducing the flow of investment and talent into the industry, notably in video production utilising 360Video technology; setting the stage for the development of a truly new entertainment medium

Fully immersive interactive worlds will continue to be the mainstay of the video games industry, while video entertainment will exist in a multi-track environment, with some genres (news, documentaries , natural history) making 360Video mainstream well before long-form narrative-driven entertainment

2017 will still be a challenging year for consumer device VR roll-out and mass market adoption; Oculus, Google, and Sony continue to seed the market, providing large scale funding and equipment directly to developers and content producers