In response to the Australian government’s intent to implement a new media code, Google is threatening to make its search engine unavailable in Australia.
If Google follows through, it spells bad news for most Australians since Google is Australia’s number-one search engine. If this is the first time you are hearing about this possibility, let us explain the events leading up to this bold warning from Australia’s number-one search engine.
Media Bargaining Code Basics
Federal government officials launched a 12-month review into how Google and Facebook use news content on their platforms. Legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives in December 2020, known as the media bargaining code. It would force Google and Facebook to pay news organisations for their content. There are provisions in the code that would offset the amount of remuneration that publishing companies receive against the value of the online traffic they get.
This reform is touted as a “world-first” by the federal treasurer’s office. In its latest form, the code requires Google and Facebook to pay to link to news sites. Melanie Silva, Google’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand, says the proposed code breaks the fundamental principle of how the web works.
In a video statement released through its platform, Silva asserts Google does not publish complete information from news sites. She contends it only provides links back to complete stories and information on specific search topics. “Paying for links breaks the way search engines work, and it undermines how the web works, too,” she says in the recorded statement. “When you put a price on linking to certain information, you break the way that search engines work and you no longer have a free and open web.”
Silva continues by stating Google is not against a new law, but they support one that is fair to all parties. She revealed that Google has an alternative solution called Google News Showcase that would operate under this new law by supporting Australian journalism without breaking the way web search works. The program would invest AU$1.3 billion over three years to pay news organisations for their expertise whilst promoting their stories online.
Google participated in a recent Senate hearing to discuss options but has also made it clear they will stop operating in Australia if the current code is passed without modifications.
What Does This Mean for Australian Consumers?
It is not great news if Google follows through with its threat to pull services here. From a search perspective, there is however a minimal chance that Google will carry out the threat and leave Australia. It is believed that it is unlikely that Google will completely leave the country. We believe it is more likely that Google will simply turn off the Google news section of its services rather than abandoning Australia entirely.
If the worst-case scenario occurs, Amire is prepared to guide its clients through the changes. Here is what we recommend.
Scenario #1: Google Leaves
Should Google leave, the strategy would shift from optimising for Google to focusing on other remaining search engines such as Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo! to ensure maximum visibility. Whilst the market shares for these search engines are currently at 6 per cent or lower, this may quickly change as they look to fill Google’s shoes should the search giant abandon ship.
Finally, we’ll also be keeping an eye on new potential players such as Apple who is considering on building its own search tools for consumers.
Scenario #2: Consumers change search habits
Google leaving will not mean the end of search. It simply means consumers will have to adapt their search behaviour in accordance to what is available.
There was in fact was a time when Google only ranked third behind MSN and Yahoo as a leading search engine. Search market share were more volatile during that time, but we were able to quickly adapt. We are prepared to guide consumers on this journey again if needed.
A Final Word on This Story
It is important to remember that, at this point, Google leaving Australia is still speculation. The Amire team will continue to monitor the situation and be ready with alternative solutions should they be necessary.
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