As newsrooms across the country scramble to adapt to the pressures of an online publishing revolution, independent publishers are grappling with a new reality — one that could result in a reduction in the amount they can earn.
The newsroom owners of many independent publishers, including those at CBC News and the Winnipeg Free Press, are in a race to stay afloat and stay relevant while also providing the newsrooms with revenue streams.
But they’re also fighting to keep up with an increasingly competitive marketplace, said Dan McNeil, editor-in-chief of the Independent Publishers’ Association of Manitoba.
“The business model has changed quite dramatically over the last five years and that’s where we’re at now,” McNeil said.
The industry is struggling to survive as digital publishers and social media companies increase their influence in the marketplace.
But McNeil is not worried about what will happen if the new rules are passed.
“We don’t really have to worry about it.
We’re going to see it in practice.
We know how to do it.
And I think there’s no doubt that it’s going to change the business model.”
McNeil says his organization is in a position to make sure independent publishers get paid for the work they do.
He says it’s a fact of life in a digital marketplace, that publishers need to take a cut of any advertising they earn from sites like YouTube.
The new rules don’t apply to the Winnipeg Independent Media Group, which is owned by CBC.
It has a similar structure to the CBC’s Winnipeg Free, but its members aren’t required to post on YouTube.
It does publish news on its own website, however.
The Independent Publishers Association of Canada says it will review the new law to see if there’s any way to apply it to all independent publishers.
Independent publishers have long complained about the new tax and how it will impact their bottom line.
In 2016, the industry was hit hard by a new government regulation that prohibited most publishers from selling advertising on websites.
The rules were lifted in 2018, but the government has continued to impose restrictions on publishers who post on social media sites.
The rule is called the online advertising threshold.
It applies to all advertising online and online video advertising, not just YouTube ads.
The number of independent publishers who are affected is small — about 10 per cent, according to McNeil.
Some publishers are trying to stay ahead of the wave of changes, McNeil and other industry experts say.
“I don’t think the situation is so bad that independent publishers have to go bankrupt to do their job,” said Ian McAllister, president of the Winnipeg Press Co-op.
McAllisters co-founded the group in 2010.
The group, which publishes more than 60 papers, magazines and web sites, says it has not had a major decline in its membership over the past decade.
It publishes all of its newspapers in Manitoba and has been in a long-term relationship with CBC.
McNeil acknowledges the pressure on publishers to keep operating as more publishers enter the digital landscape.
“There’s always going to be a little bit of a battle going on,” he said.
“But we’re doing what we can to survive.”
McAlliers view is in stark contrast to the view of his group’s competitors.
McPherson said it’s not surprising that independent publisher owners are struggling to stay relevant.
“They’re facing a lot of pressure, a lot less than in the past,” he says.
“It’s not the first time in history that the media has changed, but I think it’s the first where the media is losing control of the content and the publishing.”