‘Unequal playing field’ in relation to data use, report findsMedia organisations continue to operate on an “unequal playing field” in relation to effective data use, a report has found.
The report, ‘How user data shapes the media sector’, was conducted by Revealing Reality on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and found that in comparison with big tech companies, news organisations not only face an unequal access to data but face additional challenges including unequal control over how data is used and unequal regulation to abide by.
The report, released this week (Tuesday 25 January), comes in the wake of the findings of the Cairncross Review in 2019 that recommended that better use of consumer data was key to a sustainable future for quality journalism.
The report found that one of the main challenges raised by media organisations was the explosion of competition in the media landscape—social media and online only content providers can often offer content to audiences in cheaper and easier to access formats, and big tech organisations are increasingly acting as gatekeepers to valuable data, the report said. Media organisations also had to consider the implications of pursuing data-driven models and the threat of reduced audiences through increased data collection, it said.
It added: “It was not always practical for organisations to collect more data as this can introduce increased friction for customers, potentially leading to reduced audiences. This is particularly true for press organisations with mass market appeal that are free to access, who worry customers would just go elsewhere if requirements to share more data were added.”
Media organisations continue to have an unequal control over how data is used, the report found, with tech firms often setting the agenda for how data can be used by media organisations. In addition to this, proposed changes to Google’s third-party cookies, would see media organisations face additional challenges.
The report said: “Many media businesses rely on third party cookies to gather data on user behaviour beyond their own website/app—which is hugely valuable to prospective advertisers. Google’s announcements (and subsequent delays) of their intention to restrict use of third-party cookies via their services is of great concern to many media organisations, not least because one of the proposed alternatives, Google’s ‘Privacy Sandbox’ will likely end up driving more business in Google’s own direction.”
In terms of regulation, tech firms are often less heavily regulated, meaning they can focus on providing the most value to users, without any restrictions on what their content should include, the report found.
It added: “In contrast UK based media organisations are often overseen by regulatory and industry standards bodies, for example, local commercial radio stations can be required by Ofcom to provide a certain level of local content (news, travel etc.). This means that media organisation can’t always be completely data led in their decision making.”