Athey, Mobius and Pal (2017)
|Athey, Mobius and Pal (2017)|
|Title:||The Impact of Aggregators on Internet News Consumption|
|Author(s):||Athey, S., Mobius, M., Pal, J.|
|Citation:||Athey, S., Mobius, M. M., & Pál, J. (2017). The Impact of Aggregators on Internet News Consumption.|
|Link(s):||Definitive , Open Access|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||The authors state:
"In this paper, we use the shutdown of Google News in Spain as a natural experiment to evaluate how news aggregators affect news consumption. Our dataset is a sample of all browsing events for more than 100,000 users in Spain who use Microsoft products for browsing the internet andhaveoptedintoallowingtheirdatatobeusedforresearchpurposes.4 Weuse this dataset to construct quasi-experimental treatment and control groups. Our treatment users are all Google News users. We match these users with a synthetic control group of non-Google News users who have the same news consumption patterns as the corresponding Google News users after the shutdown of Google News. Our matching procedure therefore selects control users who make the same consumption decisions in the absence of Google News (when both groups have access to the same news discovery technology) and therefore have the same underlying preferences."
|Data Type:||Primary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
A policy debate centers around the question whether news aggregators such as Google News decrease or increase traffic to online news sites. One side of the debate, typically espoused by publishers, views aggregators as substitutes for traditional news consumption because aggregators’ landing pages provide snippets of news stories and therefore reduce the incentive to click on the linked articles. Defendants of aggregators, on the other hand, view aggregators as complements because they make it easier to discover news and therefore drive traffic to publishers. This debate has received particular attention in the European Union where two countries, Germany and Spain, enacted copyright reforms that allow newspapers to charge aggregators for linking to news snippets. In this paper, we use Spain as a natural experiment because Google News shut down all together in response to the reform in December 2014. We compare the news consumption of a large number of Google News users with a synthetic control group of similar non-Google News users. We find that the shutdown of Google News reduces overall news consumption by about 20% for treatment users, and it reduces page views on publishers other than Google News by 10%. This decrease is concentrated around small publishers while large publishers do not see significant changes in their overall traffic. We further find that when Google News shuts down, its users are able to replace some but not all of the types of news they previously read. Post-shutdown, they read less breaking news, hard news, and news that is not well covered on their favorite news publishers. These news categories explain most of the overall reduction in news consumption, and shed light on the mechanisms through which aggregators interact with traditional publishers.
Main Results of the Study
The main findings of this study are:
- A large, positive effect of Google News on small outlets, as well as on the ability of consumers to access certain types of news, such as breaking news or news that is not well covered on their favorite outlets.
- The findings highlight the large potential for welfare benefits from improved search and discovery, the “upstream” or complementary role for an intermediary.
- The findings also highlight that while large publishers may not see an effect in overall page views as a result of aggregators, they may lose traffic to their home pages, as well as their role in curating news, as readers read articles referred by Google News at the expense of articles referred by their own home pages (where newspapers monetize the home pages much better than articles).
- If readers do not pay attention to the identity of the publisher when they read articles on Google News, then the large publishers may lose their incentives to maintain a reputation for quality, and consumers may be less willing to subscribe to the publisher or use the publisher’s mobile application.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The authors state:
"Further research is required to assess the ultimate welfare costs and benefits. More broadly, our analysis covered only a few weeks before and after the change; ideally, we would want to understand the long-term response of both readers and publishers to changes in policy surrounding aggregators."
Coverage of Study
|Level of aggregation:||Microsoft users|
|Period of material under study:||2014, 2016|