We show that the shutdown of Google News in Spain decreased the number of daily visits to Spanish news outlets between 8% and 14% and that this effect was larger in outlets with fewer overall daily visits and a lower share of international visitors. Its share price was little changed on Tuesday, despite the news. Fake news is just one example to consider when investigating how Google creates avenues for profit and how Google’s economics co-depend on other online institutions, in particular, Facebook. In 2006, 99% of Google’s $10.6 billion in revenue came from advertising. Without the institutional stability of print salesFootnote 16 or other regular revenue support, traditional media organisations are drawn into writing in ways that attract attention and generate as many individual page views as possible, in order to increase advertising revenue. Even if a user shares a piece of fake news out of outrage, they have still acted within a system that uses advertising revenue to financially compensate its creator, the social media network, and the company that supported its advertising.
To find out the answer, let’s take a look at some of the effects caused as a result of changes made to Google algorithm search and the possibilities that still exist at large for online marketers. We further find that users are able to replace some but not all of the types of news they previously read. It is vital that young people are civically engaged (actively working to make a positive difference to their communities) in order to define and address public problems (Levine 2007, p.1), and social media has the potential to play a huge part in this. Many publishers view aggregators as substitutes for traditional news consumption while aggregators view themselves as complements because they make news discovery easier. The company markets its algorithm-driven search engine as a tool which will “result in finer detail to make our services work better for you” (Google 2017, online), and, in theory, the first results from a search should be the ones which are most relevant to the keywords searched. Not only did these two companies profit from the surfeit of fake news, but actively promoted it, whether algorithmically or intentionally, through search engine results and social media feeds.
Using the shutdown of the Spanish edition of Google News in December of 2014 and difference-in-differences methodology, this paper empirically examines the relevance of these two effects. We find that abnormal Google search increases about two weeks prior to the earnings announcement, spikes markedly at the announcement, and continues at high levels for a period after the announcement. Be prepared to find some surprises if an Apple follower goes for Samsung. We also find that information demand is positively associated with media attention and news, and is negatively associated with investor distraction. We find that the shutdown of Google News reduces overall news consumption by about 20% for treatment users, and reduces page views on publishers other than Google News by 10%. This decrease is concentrated around small publishers. Clickbaits are articles with misleading titles, exaggerating the content on the landing page. This result suggests that, when investors demand more information about a firm, the information content of the earnings announcement is partially preempted. As long as profits are tied directly to how much an article is shared or viewed then very particular kinds of media content will continue to be incentivised over others. These mutual incentives promote particular kinds of relationships between individual web users and online institutions such as Facebook and Google in a way that promotes Post-Fordist interactions.
These examples also demonstrate how the rise of immaterial labour by no means replaces traditional material labour, but that increasingly the spare time of individuals is spend working, in a Post-Fordist sense, to increase the profits of particular institutions and creators. The interrelations of Google, Facebook, creators of fake news, and users demonstrate how economic value is being created and harvested from relationships that many online users would not see as primarily economic. We use Spain as a natural experiment because Google News shut down altogether in response to a copyright reform enacted 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. It is important that web users understand that the web is structured around financial incentives and that, collectively, the actions of following links and sharing pages are intrinsically economic and carry significant consequences for the future of the global information ecology.