A leading regional publishing boss has called for greater regulation of the digital ad market in order to save local newspapers from potential closure.
Google UK managing director Ronan Harris told the Society of Editors conference earlier this month that two-thirds of revenues generated by online content went to its originators.
But giving evidence to a House of Lords Communications Committee into advertising on behalf of trade body the News Media Association, Henry said that in fact only a “very few crumbs” were going to the publishers.
He said: “We think there is a case for the Competition and Markets Authority to review the digital advertising market and make some recommendations as to how it can foster a more competitive marketplace.
“I think unless something changes significantly to the revenue outlook, and what we’re seeing is still steep revenue decline, then more local newspapers will close and hit the wall.”
In his evidence, Henry cited a recent NMA study showing that while 47pc of all engagements on UK content on social media are powered by commercial news brands, the news brands themselves were getting “only a very few crumbs on the revenue table.”
“We are in dialogue with them but they are very slow to move and I think one needs to put more pressure on Google and Facebook possibly, in my view, through regulation so that we can create a more balanced marketplace,” he added.
His comments fly in the face of Mr Harris’s SoE Lecture on 12 November in which he insisted that most of the ad revenues generated by news content were already going to the publishers.
“I’ve heard lots of people say that Google and Facebook are “ruthlessly stealing” all the advertising revenue that publishers hoped to acquire through online editions,” he told the gathering.
“In display advertising, Google is a supplier of ad inventory to newspaper websites. In every deal we do, without exception, the publisher keeps the majority of ad revenue — typically more than two-thirds but often more.
He added: “In short, we only make money if you’re making money.”