The Spanish government: a red light for social traffic on the internet

A news item on Fast Company citing a report on Shareaholic shows that Facebook is still far and away the social network that generates most traffic for online content creators in spite of the best efforts of some governments, among them Spain’s

The report’s independence is relative, given that it is based on traffic passing through sites that use Shareaholic’s content marketing and publication tools, which in the academic world we would call a convenience sample; furthermore, the report is focused on US traffic, nevertheless it provides a relatively clear picture of trends.

In the case of my Spanish blog, where most of the traffic is Spanish and Latin American, traffic from social networks over the last month has made up 34% of the total. Of this, Twitter leads, with 28 percent, followed by Facebook with 21%, Google+ with 15%, Feedly with 6%, Menéame with 3%, and the rest made up of Pinterest, Flipboard or LinkedIn. My figures may differ considerably from Shareaholic’s, but they also clearly show the importance of the social networks as places where content can be shared, thus increasing its visibility, its circulation, and the possibility that it is not just seen, but given added value by being shared, liked, retweeted, and commented on.

This is how content is moved through the web. When users send it to other platforms, they convert it into a social object. That is why the Spanish government’s efforts, in cahoots with the country’s print-dominated media groups, to penalize formats where contents are turned into social objects is so absurd. Over recent months I have stopped providing links to outlets belonging to AEDE, the Spanish newspapers’ association (please check out their webpage, which resembles the old Geocities pages of the ‘90s, to figure out their degree of internet savviness), stopping the generation of traffic that although modest, would tie up with many other such sites as mine, who would all do the same. The strategy preventing other content creators from providing links to the traditional media in Spain must have been dreamed up either by an idiot, or somebody who has absolutely no idea how the internet works.

But above and beyond its intrinsic contradictions, the biggest problem with the Spanish government’s attempts to protect the interest of the dominant players in the Spanish media is what lies behind it. Spain’s government is obsessed with what the country’s main newspapers say about it, and hopes to bring them into line by tossing them a few bones in the form of institutional advertising as well as the revenue that other websites or search engines would have to pay them for providing links to their content, payment that would be collected by a performing rights society over which the public has no oversight. In short, the traditional media would be compensated for its failure to adapt to the times and to generate income from the internet: they are driving in the wrong direction, and now tell the rest of us that it’s us who has to turn round and go the other way…

A tax on link providers is set to make the Spanish government an international laughing stock, a reflection of an administration living in the last century and that has no understanding of how the internet works: Spain, a pioneer in passing laws that go against one of the essential elements of the internet, the link. While in every other country the media is doing all it can to make sure its content is shared, in Spain, we want to put a tax on such activity: stupidity carried to the level of the sublime.

As Albert Einstein once said,

“For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.”

Definitely, Spain is governed by idiots.

(En español, aquí)