In a response to most news publishers’ checklist of needs from a digital conduit to their content, News Corp is exploring and developing Knewz.com, a news aggregation and distribution Web site/app that will:
- Link directly to news stories instead of intervening between audience and publisher.
- Not penalise subscription sites.
- Include content from a wide variety of sources, including niche and local publishers.
- Reward original journalism.
- Share data with publishers.
- Be curated by both human and algorithm.
“We are exploring this with the goal of recognising and rewarding the provenance of journalism, and to drive traffic and data to publishers — including subscription sites — so their original work is respected,” Jim Kennedy, a company spokesman for News Corp, said.
According to Variety, News Corp filed for trademark protection on the Knewz moniker in December of 2018. Interestingly, it is also the name of a polka band in Buffalo, New York.
Though there is no specific timeline — and it‘s not a definite “go” — Knewz.com could launch later this year.
Speaking in 2018 of the way he believes Big Tech platforms have harmed journalism, News Corp Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch said: “Facebook and Google have popularised scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable. Recognition of a problem is one step on the pathway to cure, but the remedial measures that both companies have so far proposed are inadequate, commercially, socially, and journalistically. There has been much discussion about subscription models but I have yet to see a proposal that truly recognises the investment in and the social value of professional journalism.”
Murdoch has also argued it is time to adopt a model similar to that used by cable companies, wherein publishers are paid a “carriage fee” by the Big Tech platforms. “If Facebook wants to recognise ‘trusted’ publishers then it should pay those publishers,” he said.
News Corp has called for greater algorithmic transparency from the tech platforms, including in a filing with the Australian government that suggested the possibility of breaking up Google, noting “Google’s market power across ad tech services supply chain is overwhelming.” The Journal article also cited News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson as being a “vocal critic” of both Google and Facebook and how their algorithms affect publishers’ audience reach.
Knewz.com, in concept, is expected to help drive readers to such mainstream sites as its own Wall Street Journal (which recently wrote about Knewz) and New York Post as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post. In addition, it will boost a number of local and niche publications, with a focus on audiences in the United States.
In addition to offering readers access to the content of legitimate publishers big and small, Knewz.com reportedly will also ensure that a broad variety of news sources from left to right, with the Journal noting it expects to drive traffic to sources as diverse as Daily Kos to the Daily Caller.
Knewz will publish links “without bent or bias,” according to Kennedy. “We want people to see a wide spectrum of news and views, from local, niche and national sources.”
To help develop Knewz.com, the Journal says News Corp has brought in former Fox News, NBC News, and News Corp executive Noah Kotch.
Regardless of how Knewz.com performs if it launches in the coming months, it is important that the needs of publishers continue to be articulated in a way that Big Tech can hear and respond to, and in a way that will pave the path to a better, more stable and secure future — both for journalism and for societies that depend on access to legitimate and uncensored. Publishers have an opportunity and an obligation to chart the course to that brighter future.