Former Nine executives will lead Big Tech negotiations in New Zealand
Digital Platform Initiative Blog | 20 June 2022
New Zealand’s Newspaper Publishers’ Association has hired former Nine executives Chris Janz and David Eisman to negotiate commercial deals for use of news media content by Google and Meta, The Sydney Morning Herald reported in late May.
NPA is an industry association whose membership consists of 28 regional and national New Zealand news media companies representing about 100 titles. It is seeking the power to collectively bargain to address power imbalances in a manner similar to what the Australian bargaining code has introduced, despite the absence of similar legislation in New Zealand.
Both Janz and Eisman have extensive experience in the Australian market, where a bargaining code led to more than NZ$200 million in annual payments from digital platforms to the news media. Janz was previously Nine’s chief digital and publishing officer, with responsibility for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Australian Financial Review. Eisman was Nine’s director of subscriptions and growth, leading strategy and new initiatives for those mastheads, including their partnerships with digital platforms.
Janz and Eisman told us simply, “We’re representing the industry in collective bargaining discussions.” Nonetheless, if successful, the NPA reckons that it could receive an “annual fee of at least NZ$40 million from the two tech giants, which have largely failed to engage in a serious way on any commercial deal,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald, a number derived by dividing the New Zealand population into the NZ$200 million+ remuneration secured from the platforms for the Australian news media organisations by the New Zealand population.
INMA chatted with Janz and Eisman via e-mail to find out more about their new mission.
INMA: Your meetings with the publishers: How have they been going and what are you learning about how New Zealand and Australian goals and strategies are alike and different?
Janz and Eisman: There are strong parallels between Australia and New Zealand. In both markets, Google and Facebook have built businesses of almost unimaginable scale and dominance. They hold effective monopolies in search and social media, and are the gatekeepers to the broader Internet.
Their market credibility, business models, and substantial valuations have been built on having free and unfettered access to quality journalism and content— content that is created by and funded by publishers like those we represent.
The difference between the two markets is that Australia has legislation that helped level the negotiating playing field. In the absence of that legislation, New Zealand publishers have not been able to secure a fair outcome from Google or Facebook.
INMA: Arbitration: Some believe the greatest strength of the Australian model is its baseball-style arbitration. Do you think that is something that is achievable in New Zealand, or will you need to walk a different path?
Janz and Eisman: Australian publishers were not able to reach agreements without legislative intervention. There are many aspects of that legislation that helped, including designation and the arbitration model. We are hopeful the platforms will engage in New Zealand regardless.
INMA: Time frame: What are the benchmarks along the way and when do you expect them to occur?
Janz and Eisman: We are keen to move at pace to ensure the sustainability of New Zealand journalism.
Regional newsrooms around the world are facing increasing pressure. And delays in reaching reasonable commercial agreements with the platforms only increase the risk that local publications will become unviable.
There is the added complication that New Zealand citizens can easily work in Australia, and Australian media has just had a significant cash injection that allows those organisations to target New Zealand talent.
INMA: Legislation: Will you be able to come up with a plan that will make publishers happy without the tool of legislation, or is there a path to that? Could you talk a little bit about how the Australian and New Zealand government contexts are different?
Janz and Eisman: We are hopeful Google and Facebook will engage with the collective and deliver a fair outcome that sustains New Zealand journalism without legislative intervention.
We are encouraged that the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage has said it is considering options to support commercial arrangements with platforms should financial compensation not materialise through these negotiations.
INMA: NPA membership growth: It seems to have been exponential just recently — what is the potential for additional growth and solidarity among publishers?
Janz and Eisman: The collective is open to both NPA members and other independent New Zealand-owned media. Twenty-eight publishers representing more than 100 titles have joined, representing national media through to small local publications. All invest in original journalism and recognise it is necessary to come together to sustain that journalism.
INMA: What are the major challenges that you and the publishers face, and what are the tools and strengths that you will draw on together?
Janz and Eisman: There is no doubt Australian publishers would not have achieved sustainable agreements without legislative intervention. The absence of legislation does create a challenge, though we are hopeful Google and Facebook will work with us to achieve a good outcome for Kiwi journalism.
INMA: Outcome: What is the best that you are hoping for?
Janz and Eisman: Our focus is on a fair payment for use of Kiwi journalism on Google and Facebook. A clear benchmark has been set by the Australian industry, which the former chair of the competition regulator valued at more than A$200 million/year.