Newspapers Still Fail To Recognize That More Traffic Is A Good Thing

from the life-was-so-much-easier-before-this-internet-thing dept

Google News has done a great service to online news readers by making it easy to find stories from a vast network of sources -- many of which people would never otherwise visit. It's hard to see exactly how a site that sends new readers to newspapers' web sites, and makes their content more valuable, could be a bad thing, but plenty of newspapers don't see it that way. This isn't the first time the papers have made a stink about it, and the AFP newswire even went so far as to get itself removed from Google News, cutting off a bunch of traffic -- and pissing off its customers. The problem, really, seems that Google isn't paying the papers anything -- even though they're not monetizing Google News (hey, unreasonable demands for revenue-sharing from Google -- that sounds familiar). An exec from one paper in France says: "I don't say that Google News has to die, but we prefer to have a contract with services like Lexis Nexis to give us money and audience. Google News just gives us audience." So Google serves them up readers on a plate, readers to whom they can show ads or monetize however they want -- just like readers that visit the site directly -- yet Google should pay for the privilege? The fundamental difference, of course, being that Lexis-Nexis is a subscription service that charges users -- Google News doesn't. With newspapers struggling to compete in the changing digital world, you'd expect them to be grateful for any and every reader they could get, but it seems like the Google name creates this giant expectation that it should pay for anything and everything it touches, even if it's making other people's content more valuable and more readily monetizable. Perhaps Google should just yank the complaining sites from its index, since its wide reach means that it could likely serve up plenty of competent replacements. It's pretty obvious that the newspapers have far more at stake here than Google.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Slavito, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 11:32am

    Brand

    The issue is not just getting traffic from somewhere - I think *that* is actually very short-sighted. The longer-term issue is where the readers are going to go to get their information. Newspapers (at least the major ones) have been operating on the assumption there would be a certain amount of loyalty on the part of their readers. Google News discourages loyalty. It encourages switching.
    It also makes it seem like some small newspaper reprinting wire stories has the same "weight" as New York Times with its teams of journalists. In other words, Google News destroys newspaper brands. They are right to see it as a problem.

     

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  2.  
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    knight37, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 11:44am

    Micropayments

    I really feel like news sites could make money on their articles from the internet if they had micropayments set up in some universal way (this would have to be done by a big tech company, like, well, like Google). Reading headlines would be free, but if you want to read the full article you pay a very modest fee (5-10 cents). The fees, of course, would have to deduct from some kind of account that the user sets up with Google or whoever handles the micropayments. Then Google shares a chunk of the money with whoever got the page hit. I know I'd much rather have to pay a small fee the few times I might actually want to read an article from some other newspaper I don't subscribe to rather than having to pay a monthly fee for some kind of news service. Of course, people who read a lot of news might prefer a flat fee. The micropayments handler could offer both options.
    I think when you get down to it people are willing to pay for the news they read. Someone just needs to find a way to collect the money.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 11:44am

    No Subject Given

    I want a network that newspapers can belong to, and that consumers can belong to, that will get me access to every online newspaper for every member newspaper.

    I do enjoy articles from certain newspapers more often than others... ft.com, wsj.com, csmonitor.com.. and wouldnt mind compensating them for the information and entertainment they bring me. But I am not going to subscribe to all those guys. If I could pay $5/mo and be sure that I am compensating all those guys, I would be glad to.

     

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  4.  
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    Stoolio, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Brand

    Saying Google does not encourage loyalty is like saying TV Guide and TV Guide channel encourages someone to watch a different station, so I will no longer let them list my programming schedule.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 12:35pm

    No Subject Given

    More traffic does not just mean more opportunities to sale ads and such. It also means more hits to the site...which means more bandwidth cost. Having contracts with people to get their name out they can see how many "subscribers" they have and hence plan for bandwidth needs. Google brings a lot of traffic that they may not be ready for. Perhaps this is one of their concerns too...

     

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  6.  
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    bamaGuru, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Brand

    eggzackery ... I agree 100%

     

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  7.  
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    Chris, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 12:40pm

    Wow...

    More proof that liberals will bitch about big business, even when they are the big guys as well.

    Can we just get rid of democrats? Please. Through violence, plague, whatever the hell it takes? We'd see a lot less of crap like this, garunteed.

     

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  8.  
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    joe bloggs, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 12:45pm

    French arrogance

    An exec from one paper in France says: "I don't say that Google News has to die, but we prefer to have a contract with services like Lexis Nexis to give us money and audience"

     

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  9.  
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    Moogle, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Brand

    Sure, it's a problem that a very popular site is doing what anyone could be doing. The solution, however, isn't to take your ball and go home. You're going to lose some loyal customers regardless, but that only makes sure you lose the random viewers as well.

    What they DON'T want to do is compete for customer loyalty based on quality. A really good news site could very easily attract a huge loyal following from random google news viewers. If people know paper X always covers the subject better, they will hunt that one down in the google news story list, if they don't just bookmark the newspaper homepage. But it's hard work! (Gasp!) That is the sort of thing with which cheap news wire regurgitation cannot compete! (eos w/ preposition, double word score!)

    So rather than ask google to remove them, like the stupid papers would do, they try to force google, the culprit, to give them money to subsidize their outmodded existing business.

    I guess I'm starting to view this all as business inertia. Legal action is friction, and it's leaving skid-marks all over the legal systems as the dead business models slowly grind to a halt.

     

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  10.  
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    Tashi, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Brand

    Bingo. There are a lot of companies clinging desperately to outdated business models.

    But there is another component. I work for a Knight Ridder newspaper. KR makes a lot of money, so much so that they are WAY in the black. But recently they missed their revenue projection by $6 million I believe it was, and specifically I think it was advertising projections. Makes sense, since for a newspaper to make money, it has to be at the very least, 57% ads. Probably more since that number is from journalism school and I graduated in 1989. But still, KR is way in the black though. Shareholders went nuts. Now KR is for sale and KR is making cuts left and right to make the deal more attractive. So I'd imagine some shareholder group somewhere pondered as to why Google isn't subsidizing the model.

    Another piece is companies like demographics. They just don't want you to come to their site. They want you to register (hence you can't access some sites unless you do) so they can track you and track your habits and generate that into some kind of revenue.

     

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  11.  
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    Jeff, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Wow... is right (head up ass)

    Whatever.... Start making sense already....

     

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  12.  
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    Jeff, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 1:06pm

    Turn off the Spigot

    It would be fun if Google turned off Google News for a week and the news organizations started realizing how much free traffic they were getting. Google News makes nothing. Most newspapers sites make the money through ads on their site. Poof! Bye Bye Ad Revenue.

     

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  13.  
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    Lee, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Micropayments

    "I think when you get down to it people are willing to pay for the news they read. Someone just needs to find a way to collect the money."

    Wrong.

    I read A LOT of news, and I wouldn't pay a cent for it. If one paper charges, i just move onto the next paper.
    Why would I pay 5 or 10 cents to read a 1000 word article? I mean unless every single online paper is going to charge the same for the same story, maybe you'll get a few schlubs to pay, but the moajority of people will simply resort to watching the TV, or spending a quarter at a newsstand. Now instead of seeing 1-15 different newspapers a day, i will only see one. maybe thats great for that one paper, but the rest are missing out.
    I mean its a paper for crying out loud, no one is going to pay a premium for something they look at once and then throw away. I mean I won't even sign up for the papaers that make you register.

     

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  14.  
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    Tashi, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 1:20pm

    one more thing...

    Journalism is still in the dark ages in a lot of ways. A lot of these editors and managing editors have been around for decades and have no idea how to use or maximize technology for productivity and workflow let alone profit. A lot of guys in our IT IS dept. back in the early 90s made that move from traditional journalism positions not tech positions. KR has been really great in this area though, as a company. They have introduced some great applications and technolgies to the world of journalism and they have been a pioneer online. But when it boils down to a lot of individual newspapers, you still have an old school mentality, stuck in 40 years ago.

     

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  15.  
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    Tashi, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Micropayments

    Wrong is right and Lee has an important point. News needs advertising to survive. Trying to make the consumer subsidize the news they are getting would be a big mistake. I'm in journalism and I wouldn't pay for it. If all else failed I'd just go to the blogs and bloggers. They are doing a better job than the traditional journalists in many aspects.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 2:02pm

    Re: Brand

    Yeah, it might be a problem - but it's not Google's problem. It's a problem with the Newspapers.

    Half the time I read an article out there - especially on The New York Time's website - it ends up pestering for a Credit Card number. Well, why bother? I can go to another site and see the same story or just listen to the radio or watch it on TV.

    And in the end - as a matter of fact, MOST news feeds have more weight than the New York Times. I don't like half the biased garbage in there anymore. The Big media days are dead - CBS put the last nail in the coffin for them. No one trusts them any bit more than Wired.com

    Loyalty was always a bad thing with news - I'd rather browse a number of sites and news services anyway, if I'm looking for the real, true story. You're better off reading a few different news sources than just blindly trusting one particular one.

    Actually, I think the internet has brought it to the public's attention about how inaccurate the large news services really are.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Lee, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 2:22pm

    Re: Brand

    "Loyalty was always a bad thing with news"

    The truth is that there never WAS a true loyalty anyways... Few are going to buy more than one paper, or watch more than one news show. We just went for what was easy & familar.
    Now with the internet, whatever lands on top of a search is what we go for. Do we have favorite sites? Sure, but just as soon as something better comes along, we'll go there. No loyalty is involved just because we happen to visit the same site twice... or buy a newspaper twice.

    If there is anything that the 'net has taught us its that there is more than one way to look at something, and then its easy to find differing viewpoints quickly, something neither the TV or newspapers can do.

    Face it, for the majority, newspapers are for killing time getting to work, TV is just background noise.

     

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  18.  
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    Krysteena, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 3:43pm

    google news links

    Considering that I am even reading this story due to a google link the fact that they are raising a stink over this just seems ridiculous. Instead of making a stink perhaps they should try to come up with a plan on making the visitors they get into loyal readers.

     

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  19.  
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    MattyKo, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 5:11pm

    Re: Micropayments

    Micropayments? The Internet is based on free and accessible information. If the big producers of news content want payment for their articles, they should stick to printing newspapers and magazines.

    Obviously there was some value gained by publishing their news stories on the Internet or they would not be there now. These are businesses who need money to survive. Therefore it should come down to a simple business decision. If they are losing money by publishing stories on the net then stop. They should not change the medium to suit their needs.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Mark Kitchen, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 5:53pm

    Re: google news links

    Agreed - the techdirt widget is center stage on my homepage.

     

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  21.  
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    SEO Goddess, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 6:45pm

    duh

    I have seen the effect of some of these newspaper sites by having Google Newsfeeds. Like going from a Google PageRank of 4 to 8 in 2 months. Sounds like a good deal to me! Not to mention boosting your advertising impressions!

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Joe, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 1:58am

    No Subject Given

    I fail to see what their complaint is about. If they don't want their pages indexed by Google then they just have to put a suitably configured "robot.txt" file onto their web site.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    another anonymous coward, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 4:32am

    Re: Micropayments

    I thought I was the only going "Microp-what?" Like why would you want to give those guys some more ideas on how to milk us? Man if you're feeling charitable, go donate them or support your LOCAL newspaper so that diversity survives.
    Anyway Google is rich enough, why would you want them to get richer? I'm not understanding this world...

     

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  24.  
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    Felix, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 5:21am

    On the Money!

    Amen to this article. I agree, Google should yank anyone who complains and let all the grateful news agencies get all the traffic!
    Ingrates!

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    censored711man, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 5:58am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Exactly. They have the tools they need to get what they want done, and yet refuse to use them.

     

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  26.  
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    Rick, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 11:18am

    Google shhould take the requests literally.

    Google should completely pull all indexing for these whiney sites as well as the requested Google News linking. It's completely ridiculous to expect Google to pay them for free traffic when Google is doing nothing more than providing a free service they make nothing more than loyalty from.

    Google News is a very cool service and I have loved it ever since it launched. It's the easiest way to see all the News at a glance and have access to multiple points of view all at the same time.

    As for the Coward's comments above that the bandwith costs are an issue, I'm sorry, but you're way off base. I have multiple sites on the net, and I'd gladly pay Google to send me the kind of traffic they send the News sites. My LOWEST revenue producing page has a banner ad and a Google adsense ad block on it - it earns .00115 cents per page view ,on average (incredibly small). It costs me about .0000001 cents, in bandwith costs, to serve that page - far less than 1% of the revenue. If a News site with hundreds or thousands of people can't figure out how to make money off any and all traffic - they should just shut down....

     

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  27.  
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    Negeek23, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 10:38pm

    Calm Down

    This is stupid. One of the original purposes of the internet was to setup an indestructible free exchange of information that would spread across the world. To me it seems this French guy is really bothered by that (and possibly rightly so) because Newspapers sell information. So really he should just be mad at the internet because in a free market the internet sites that are free will be chosen more over the rated sites. Don't be mad at Google; be mad at the world, French Exec. This is more of old technology being mad it is displaced by new technology. If they really want to succeed they need to find a way to adapt with the internet and not to fight it. I would imagine if your main goal is to sell physical copies of newspaper and the internet is becoming the main medium of information display, you as a company would want to have the best and most available display. Few people are always at their computer and I would imagine the same sources they would trust online would be those that they choose at their local markets.

     

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  28.  
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    Negeek23, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 11:23pm

    Re: Micropayments

    Exactly!

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 1:29am

    Re: Brand

    Seems to be about personality more than loyalty anyway. We probably watch a particular news channel for the personalities or a newspaper for the feel of personalities. With the internet it becomes our own personality. I can stop letting someone else channel what looks right, to going out and getting what I see as right.

    Oh and newspapers, they have always been crap! The paper, the ink, and damn I hate skipping through pages just to find the rest of one interesting article that was on the front page.

     

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  30.  
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    Jakob Kobberholm, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 3:37am

    I don't get it

    I don't know how this is in France, but where I live(In Denmark) there are big signs outside every store that sells newspapers, with the frontpage headlines from the major papers(In old movies, these are usually a little boy shouting out the headlines, but it's the same principle).
    These signs are made by the papers to get readers, even those that aren't "loyal", but just interested in the frontpage stories.
    Isn't that exactly what Google or any other newslinking site does? Show the headlines and if you're interested, they will send you to their newspaper.
    If the paper does not make enough money from their web sites, they need to reconsider what they're doing instead of blaming the signs/newslinking sites. Without them, they wouldn't even have a business.

     

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  31.  
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    Yeah, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 6:09am

    Re: I don't get it

    Yeah if my band's doing a gig, I don't want the press to advertise it without paying me. That's just WRONG.

     

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  32.  
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    giafly, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 6:14am

    Newspapers don't pay

    ...anything to the victims they report about in news stories.
    So why should Google pay the newspapers?

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Labdude2, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 7:23am

    Re: Brand

    That is how I found Techdirt, and am now a loyal fan. Quality will get you readers, not hiding from the world like these whiners want to do.

     

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  34.  
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    sal R, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 9:44am

    make google pay?

    the newspapers may have a legitimate concern. newspapers are looking to increase readers so to charge more for advertisements. but when the readers are being linked directly to certain stories (which cannot be predicted ahead of time), it may be hard to charge for advertisements. on the other hand, google will be able to charge for advertisements because of the service that they are providing, cannibalizing any new sales the newspapers would expect.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 10:54am

    Re: Brand

    the newspapers may have a legitimate concern. newspapers are looking to increase readers so to charge more for advertisements. but when the readers are being linked directly to certain stories (which cannot be predicted ahead of time), it may be hard to charge for advertisements. on the other hand, google will be able to charge for advertisements because of the service that they are providing, cannibalizing any new sales the newspapers would expect.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Negiti, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Brand

    The Internet, Al Gore's invention, encourages switching.

    The Internet also encourages truthiness over truth. But then, so does Google with their 'I feel lucky' function, as do the ABC, BBC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, NBC, MSNBC news services, by moving their lips. I left FoxNews out of that list as they have yet to be caught gaffing on anywhere near the level of the others: strapping explosives to a truck's gas tank to 'illustrate' an unbiased safety test, red-handedly hiding mulitple war-related news stories, and so on and so forth.

    What the papers are angry about is that before the Internet, but more specifically the Web, they were able to con-text their readership in a manner consisten with their particular socialist view. Being able to [previously] guarantee a particular herd of sheep to advertisers and social engineers was worth ALOT more money then than it is worth now. The shortfall has to be made up somewhere.

    The 'progressive' media is rarely if ever that. They are as entrenched in their narcissist point of view as the music executives are in theirs when it comes to online sharing of music.

    The puppeteer is pissed! The strings were already rubbery and unresponsive. Now they are being cut altogether. How upsetting! How sad!! Soros must be having a maid mix up a Bromo as we speak!!! ;O) -Joe

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Wow...

    Actually, it's the Republican's that we're going to get rid of. Starting in this year's elections in Congress and continuing when the Rethuglican's lose the White House in 2008.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    John W, Mar 6th, 2006 @ 5:48am

    Re: Wow...

    Why do open forums like this always have to end up being so friggin political...with left and right wing dopes always bashing each other as if the story had anything to do with this?
    Can't we just debate this stuff without somebody trying to use it as an excuse to bash the other side's political affiliation as if they were somehow to blame?

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Negiti, Mar 6th, 2006 @ 8:49am

    Re: Wow...

    The problem is that our news sources are deeply political at their core. The papers are owned by dyed-in-the-wool social engineers. Do you own legwork; wouldn't want you to take my word for it. Journalists like Peter Arnett are deeply committed Socialists. In matter of fact, a poll [like they can be trusted - lol] conducted among journalists indicated that the overwhelming majority of them went into the field not to report news, but to 'change the world'.

    If the news were apolitical, it would knock the legs out from under most efforts to spin it ala-politik.

    Truthiness at its finest.

    Cowardly Lion (or whatever the crap it is calling itself) is probably correct if not 'right' - Bush has comported himself in his spending and social agenda so much like a Liberal as to have forced a search for a genuinely Conservative or [at least quasi] Libertarian candidate.

    -J

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    scboxer, Mar 6th, 2006 @ 5:57pm

    hey

    Google is the whole reason I found a lot of the sites that I visit everyday. The convenience of having the headlines for several sites on one page makes it easier to check them to see if I want to pursue reading them further, that's all. Would I stop coming to them if Google dropped them, no. However, if Google hadn't presented them in the first place, I wouldn't be going to them at all. It's the content of the site that keeps me coming back and instills loyalty.
    As for some way of making revenue...I also tend to shop with the advertisers I see on these pages, much like I did when looking through the ad circulars in the paper. Can they not see the similarity? Actually, I think it's the difference they cant' see- Good content is the key, not being the only game in town
    They should be thanking Google instead of blasting them. It's amazing how so many companies are going after Google for some reason or another...they must be doing something right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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