Portals must clean up their acts
Since last year, local web portals have been under fire for predatory and intimidating practices against smaller Internet companies using their market dominance. Things have not improved and, in fact, have worsened. Yet politicians are turning a blind eye because they need help from popular search engines during election season. Mom-and-pop stores must pay these sites premiums in order to get their ads to pop up more easily. Portal sites continue to steal ideas about real estate information or “webtoons,” cartoon series published on websites, and distribute certain content for free to raise traffic. The Internet culture has turned unoriginal, overcompetitive and homogenous.
In such an environment, Nam Changi, a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, unveiled an interesting piece of research last week. In his study on the contribution of news reports to the revenue of portal sites, he found that newspaper news helped generate 17 to 18 percent of portal sites’ profit from advertising revenue. The search engine giants carry news articles for almost nothing. According to Nam’s study, of the 524.1 billion won ($470.9 million) Naver earned through advertising revenue, about 75 billion won in operating profit was generated thanks to newspaper reports. If the sites pay the normal rates for the news items, the newspaper industry should have received 37.5 billion won to 45 billion won from Naver.
Internet giant Google does not steal technology or ideas from start-ups, nor does it take liberties with news reports without paying for them. Its searches are fair and transparent according to the numbers of hits. Local portal sites, in contrast, help themselves to outside materials to build up their search database and yet remain obsessively secretive about their own data. Their searches change according to how much they earn from the providers. News is edited to fit their interests. The Internet has become a part of our daily lives. It is as indispensable as the telecommunications infrastructure. Abuses by portals that distort the market and reduce media diversity should be corrected. They should start by paying the proper fees for all materials they use.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 25, Page 34