Laid-off journalists launch first ad campaign targeting Google, Facebook

The Save Journalism Project, a group started by recently laid-off journalists aimed at highlighting tech giants’ effect on the news industry, is launching its first ad campaign this week urging lawmakers to take on Facebook and Google.

John Stanton, a former D.C. bureau chief at BuzzFeed News, and Laura Bassett, who was laid off from her job as a Huffington Post reporter this year, launched the group earlier this month to bring attention to how tech platforms’ stranglehold on digital advertising revenue harms local and online news publishers.

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“Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook have consumed approximately 60 percent of all digital ad revenue, making it difficult for even online news outlets with national reach to survive, let alone local ones,” Stanton, a longtime political reporter who was laid off in a round of cuts at BuzzFeed this year, said in a statement.

The digital video ad highlighted how the newspaper industry’s revenue plummeted in the past decade as Facebook and Google have achieved explosive growth by taking in the majority of online ad revenue.

The ad campaign will run on Twitter ahead of next week’s Congressional Baseball Game, which the group is helping to sponsor. The group declined to disclose how much money would be spent on the campaign.

A spokeswoman for Facebook declined to comment. A Google spokeswoman declined to respond to the ad, but pointed to an earlier statement touting the company's record as a "collaborative and supportive technology and advertising partner to the news industry."

"Every month, Google News and Google Search drive over 10 billion clicks to publishers’ websites, which drive subscriptions and significant ad revenue," the statement reads. "We’ve joined forces with publishers on projects ranging from helping improve their mobile experiences and supporting subscriptions to deepening advertising partnerships and growing their revenue. Our Google News Initiative, which launched last year, continues to build on that work."

Lawmakers have been giving more attention to the issue of the news industry’s struggles in the Big Tech era. Earlier this month, the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust brought in news industry leaders and advocates for a hearing as part of its new investigation into Silicon Valley’s market power.

And lawmakers are pushing a bill to give news publishers the legal right to collectively bargain with Facebook and Google for more online ad revenue. The bill, called the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, has bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

“This revenue should not be lining the already full pockets of Big Tech companies; it should be funding the high-quality journalism that a healthy democracy requires. Big Tech is killing journalism and must be stopped,” Stanton said in his statement.

—Updated at 4:24 p.m.