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Google’s threat to pull its search engine could have been much worse

Mel Silva talked to me every day, without fail. I’d open Twitter, and there was Mel, always explaining the worst case scenario for myself and anyone else who likes to locate things on the Interwebs.

Then, crickets.

Truth be told, it wasn’t a proper conversation. Chats require engagement. I never got a word in.

Silva is the managing director of Google Australia. As the federal government upped the ante in its threats to make the tech giant and others pay for news content, Silva became the face of a viral corporate campaign.

Should Federal Parliament enact laws to make Google and Facebook to compensate news publishers for their content, Silva would say, then wave goodbye to your favourite search engine.

Mel Silva, Managing Director for Google Australia, explains why there is a workable news code that doesn’t break Google Search. Learn more about what the News Media Bargaining Code means for you at https://t.co/X4UoySQPLw pic.twitter.com/9UjtaPW0zZ

— googledownunder (@googledownunder) January 22, 2021

That sure sounds like a threat. But as threats go, the music community has dealt with worse.

Indeed, the threat could have been worse.

Silva, appearing more presidential than the guy who got turfed last month from the White House, has a job to do.

As the leader of the outpost for a U.S. multinational, she’ll be constantly under the kosh with her bosses in Silicon Valley to win, and to warn of the dire consequences should the company fail to prevail.

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Until this week, the ABC reports, there was a 50:50 chance that Google parent Alphabet could just take its ball and leave.

It’s a nightmare scenario for many companies that rely on the search engine to stay in business, and many pay handsomely for its services.

Google is, by some distance, the dominant player in Australia’s online advertising market, and is said to make about $4.8 billion in local advertising revenue annually

According to research presented on Media Watch, Google soaks up more than half of all online advertising in Australia.

Separate research published by IBISWorld has more than 40 per cent share of the $9.7 billion industry.

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Negotiations with the news media giants are ongoing, and those promoted Google ads on social media are no longer appearing in my news feed, for now.

Whether Google, Facebook and others owe content providers a buck is an issue to tackle another day. And what all this means for music won’t become clear until the dust settles.

Search engines aren’t in short supply. Nor is disruption right now. But it could have been worse.

Imagine, for a moment, if Google had threatened to yank YouTube instead of its search engine.

For artists waiting out this pandemic, holding tight for a vaccine and the new norm, that would have felt like the end of days.

One bullet dodged. Another incoming

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