Gordon Stevenson is Digital Transformation Director at Newsquest Scotland

The challenges facing so called “legacy media” reach far and wide.

Story telling has changed over the decades and news groups are no strangers to “transformation”. Indeed, we led the way in many fields, being early adaptors of advanced telecommunications with modems and portable data drives, full colour printing, desk top publishing and of course – the internet with HeraldScotland.com.

But as nimble and adaptive as the consummate professionals within our and other commercial news organisations have been and remain, greater forces continue to work against us.

READ MORE: Staff still determined their mission matters - TV review, The Papers, BBC1

No sooner do we get within touching distance of a sustainable content model, than one or more of the FAANG monopoly (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) pull the plug on our ambitions, usually with the release of an opaque “algorithm” release which, more often than not, has the ultimate effect of denying us eyeballs on news stories and therefore advertising revenue.

Not so long ago, there was a global outcry over Bill Gates’s Microsoft perceived monopoly over web browsing software (Internet Explorer bundled with Windows as default) for having a stranglehold over global competition and innovation.

After losing that anti-trust case, everyone felt a little better, that there was still room for others to enter online markets. Looking back now, Microsoft actually look like the good guys. Fast forward to only a few years ago.

READ MORE: Donald Martin - the Scottish media has never been more important. 

I was present at a Facebook event for publishers in Glasgow, where the social media giant proclaimed that there was no need for news publishers to continue to build their own proprietary websites and apps.

“We have the traffic, the future proof no-cost solution, the global reach – post all your news on our Facebook pages and sit back while the revenue flows” was the message.

Some, including myself, could see the cold logic in this marriage of convenience.

No cost to us for endless development of websites, no marketing budget required to reach new readers, no sales team required to sell ads around our content.

And one publisher who was present that day, did indeed begin that process, by shutting down some regional websites and redirecting their web addresses to their Facebook business pages.

That didn’t end well as we all know. One day, Facebook simply decided being the world’s largest editor was a costly business, and they pulled the plug on the Facebook news feed. Just like that.

Trust is a major theme throughout the documentary and rightly so. If current financial projections continue, more and more news organisations (including some non legacy) will start going to the wall.

READ MORE: Buzzing, sweary and the best place to be​

One of the reasons why The Herald is still around after more than 200 years is because readers can trust what we write – whether that’s in print, on our website, in our app. But creating content you can trust costs money. Lots of money. 

That’s fine under the normal rules of business, but these are not normal times. FAANG operates a kind of Wild West information consortium, taking snippets of other businesses costly content, putting their own ad infrastructure around it, and paying themselves into foreign accounts to bypass the tax laws of the host nation in which the reader viewed the content in the first place. All perfectly legal. 

We are sleepwalking into a future with a handful of UK news outlets, forced to abandon most if not all hyperlocal and regional coverage.

READ MORE: Comment - Daily miracle in face of industry changes

What will be that source of truth? Facebook. Amazon? Apple and Google don’t write news, they simply repurpose other people’s.

And if we expect quality journalism to last in a world dependent on the tech titans, who pays for journalism?  Someone is going to have to, and soon. Take a look around the shrinking quality trusted news ecosystem – and it’s clear. We’re already paying.