Google generated $4.7B in 2018 revenues by ripping off content developed by the news media and didn't pay the nation's beleaguered publishers a penny for their material, according to a study released by the News Media Alliance trade group of more than 2,000 newspapers.
The $4.7B number almost equals the total $5.1B in digital advertising revenues generated by the newspaper business last year.
Isn't that just bananas?
Especially when a quick peek at he balance sheet of Google parent company, Alphabet, shows $113B in cash, equivalents and marketable securities as of March 31.
Google's theft is probably a lot worse.
Keystone Strategy, the economics consulting firm that conducted the study, calls the $4.7B number a "conservative estimate" of the revenue made through use of content. It fails to place a value on the ways Google uses the news content to drive traffic, develop its products and solidify its dominant market position.
And things are looking up for Google on the newspaper content front.
The amount of news in Google searches ranges from 16 percent to 40 percent. That number is on the rise. The Keystone report finds that more and more people are turning to "legitimate" news sites to explain an ever-more disturbing world.
Traffic from Google Search to newspaper sites rose more than 25 percent to 1.6B visits per week for the year ended Jan. 2018.
News is becoming increasingly important to Google and will become even more vital as the presidential campaign kicks in and possible impeachment proceedings begin.
"This means more money goes back to Google and not the publishers producing the content,” said David Chavern, CEO of the Alliance.
The Alliance supports legislation that would "provide a limited safe harbor for news publishers to be able to collectively negotiate for better terms with platforms such as Google and Facebook,” according to Chavern.
The Journalism Competition & Preservation Act would provide such a remedy.
But Google should proactively make amends and correct the current marketplace imbalance. It's a matter of good PR.
The search giant, which is already under attack by critics wanting to break up Big Tech, could earn a bushel of goodwill by returning a big chunk of the revenues that it skimmed from newspapers.
After all, Google obviously values their content. It should cough up some heavy cash before more newspapers vanish.