Editorial: Why does the government hate Canadian tech publications?

As content director, I avoided editorials. I have my own blog for personal opinions. The rule in our publications has always been, “how does knowing this really enrich our readers?”

But recent actions by the Canadian government to “help” Canadian publishers changed my perspective, as I wondered, “Why does the government hate publishers, especially tech publishers? »

C-18, a bill that is supposed to defend Canadian publishers, could actually spell disaster for many small Canadian publishers. The legislation has been criticized by a number of key industry experts, including Michael Geist, who said in a recent article: “The government’s handling of the Bill C-18 motion is simply embarrassing. .”

We have known for a long time that the government cannot or will not effectively protect Canadian publishers. For example, if we were any other industry, we would have been protected against “anti-dumping” legislation. For years, American publishers were able to “wash the maple” by adding a few Canadian stories to their American content and then publishing them in our market at a cost that we, who had to pay salaries and cover the full range of stories local. , could never compete with. In the digital age, the government has proven utterly incapable of taking meaningful action.

To be precise, there were a number of years back to help publishers go digital, but more money had to be invested than many companies, and our company waited years to recover the funds from investment. We worked hard, but we were lucky to survive this transition. Many other publishers simply went bankrupt.

Strangely, when it comes to other “cultural” industries such as music, film or television, the government has managed to generate well-deserved protection. There are Canadian content regulations for music, film and television.

But editing? When we are touched, they are crickets.

By the way, we don’t make this an “us or them” argument. Canadian culture needs support in all its various incarnations. In fact, the music industry and others probably need more support, as streaming threatens the livelihoods of Canadian musicians and, while some savvy artists like The Weeknd may succeed, the loss of streaming revenue risks killing future generations. of stars. It was our restrictions on Canadian content that allowed the emergence of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and many others.

So how do publishers, especially smaller niche publications, survive? The founder of our company was very astute in understanding that the Canadian government would not be of much help. He created a joint venture to protect us that lasted for decades and sustained great publishing jobs in Canada.

Unfortunately, our American partners understood that the Canadian government did not care and abandoned this agreement, hoping that they could “maple wash” their current content, knowing that we were too small to defend ourselves with a lawsuit and knowing that the government would not help a small publisher.

What makes the new Bill C-18 such an additional assault on this industry. Apparently, it aims to protect posts from having the content used by Google or Facebook without compensation. Some think it’s a good idea. Others think it will cause these giants to punish Canadian publishers by removing our sites from search results. This is difficult for many of us in niche areas, where more than half of our traffic comes from search.

And what did the government offer in return? For us – and many other publishers like us – nothing. They forced us to take risks and offered nothing in return.

Nothing? Yes, nothing.

We are excluded from all C-18 benefits. Here is the article that slipped into the bill.

27 (1) Upon application by an information business, the Board shall, by order, designate the business as eligible if it


(b) […]

(iii) produces topical content that is not primarily focused on a particular topic, such as industry-specific news, sports, hobbies, arts, lifestyle, or entertainment. »

Everything rests on this one word – “not”.

So simple. So deadly to us and so many others.

What he’s saying is that unless you produce a full line of news, you’re out. No other industry, cultural or otherwise, would be subject to this restriction. When the Canadian content restrictions were put in place, nobody said you had to do folk, rock, classic, and polka songs in the same song, or you don’t qualify. Likewise, no one said movies had to have drama, comedy, music, and mime numbers in the same movie.

Why not? Because it would be ridiculous to do that.

Yet the government says, “if you focus on one particular area of ​​information, you are not a publisher.”

What does this actually mean? Only the biggest publishers will benefit. Those who cover a general field will receive all the money. Those who are smaller and try to stand out by pursuing a differentiated strategy will be left behind.

All such publications that serve a specific Canadian audience will be punished. They all depend on search traffic – traffic they get now because they are specialized and considered authorities. But the government is willing to gamble their livelihood and give nothing back.

In short: the government wants us to take the risks with its new strategy, but offers us nothing in return. Any pain. No gain.

We’re a tech publisher, but that also applies to sports, fashion, culture – any publication that has done what any great business strategist would say is the way to survive – differentiate yourself with an audience niche.

So the question remains. Are our federal representatives ignorant? Do they think that the many small publications in this country are just a nuisance?

Or are we just another kind of small business that the government and opposition parties pretend to talk to during elections and then ignore when they govern?

We went to see our MP in the riding where we have created jobs in Canadian publishing and where we have helped create jobs for journalists, writers, creators and many other Canadians for over 40 years. We had a very polite young person take our phone call and then – silence.

We will not go without a fight. We’ve stayed relevant and alive in Canada through hard work and creativity. We know we bring value. Numerous studies show that Canadians want to read Canadian stories about technology.

But if we’re gone and you get that Canadian story about a big established company in a US newsletter, ask yourself: who will tell the stories of other Canadian tech companies and entrepreneurs?

Which brings us back to the question posed at the beginning of this article. But maybe it’s a little more important than just the technology. Perhaps the question is, “why does the Canadian government hate the small businesses that are so vital to the Canadian publishing industry?

If they don’t, and we overreact or unfairly react, here’s how the government could prove us wrong:

If you’re one-on-one with Google and you’re going to “bite the bear,” have a safety net for those of us who might get hit like this. Your own MPs have said that even the blocking experience of Canadians has had a big impact. Understand that when big publishers get sniffles, small publishers get pneumonia. We are always close to the edge and try to keep the doors open. We don’t have huge assets or access to huge lines of credit. We cannot wait months or even years to act. Get rid of this idea that all editors do general news. This, for many of us, would be a foolish strategy. We are often specialized, focused on key audiences or areas of interest. But we are no less relevant than any other source of information. And when you think about Canadian culture, but ignore us, please answer a question. Who will tell Canadian stories after we are gone?

If you are troubled by these issues, or any other aspect of this bill, write or call your MP. You can find their contact details here. Don’t let Canadian publishing die.

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