ABC defends use of Google AdWords in wake of Hywood criticism

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 18 May 2017

The ABC has defended its use of Google AdWords as “normal marketing behaviour” in the wake of criticism from Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood.

Hywood slammed the ABC for using taxpayer money to invest in such marketing and boosting the profits of multinational corporations like Google.

He said the ABC is forcing commercial news organisations to spend more money on marketing in a sector already under pressure.

“The ABC is creating additional pressure on local commercial media by aggressively competing with the same audience that commercial media rely on, by providing online content for free undermining our ability to create a sustainable model," Hywood said, speaking at the senate inquiry into public interest journalism yesterday.

"Why the ABC is taking money out of the system I don't understand.”

The ABC says like all media organisations, it bids on keyword search engine terms to ensure its content finds the correct audience.

“This is normal marketing behaviour in the digital space and is critical to ensuring audiences find relevant content. It is used by other public broadcasters like the BBC and CBC, and other government departments who need to ensure the correct information finds the right audience,” the ABC said.

“In the same way a television guide provides information for television audiences, keyword searches help audiences find content in an increasingly fragmented market.”

Hywood argued the “biggest threat” to quality journalism is “unprofitable media companies”.

“The ABC also pays Google out of taxpayers' money, who pay negligible tax, and spend nothing on local content provision for search engine marketing, that means that the ABC stories appear higher on search terms such as national news, international news and restricts our ability to generate revenue from our audience,” he said.

HuffPost editor-in-chief Tory Maguire said she was “not concerned” to see the ABC investing in Google AdWords, but “surprised” they are using “our money” to promote content.

The ABC said investing in AdWords is the most cost effective way for the company to reach lighter digital audiences.

“With the proliferation of fake news on digital channels favoured by an increasing number of younger audience members, it is more important than ever ABC audiences can locate our news service, which is seen as the most trusted source of news in Australia,” the ABC said.

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