It would almost be amusing, if it weren't so sad, to see the once-proud newspaper industry flounder as it tries to figure out the internet. It's been dragged kicking and screaming into the online age, and it's made misstep after misstep thanks to a largely defensive strategy of trying to protect its core product with useless schemes like registration barriers, rather than evolving to determine and maintain its relevance in a digital world. Google has been one particular point of contention for newspapers round the world, apparently unable to comprehend that it sends them traffic, which, you'd imagine, is something they'd regard as a good thing. Given this aversion, it's a bit surprising to see a story in the WSJ this morning about how several British newspapers are actively buying Google AdWords like "North Korea nuclear test" to drive traffic to their sites, and -- in a real shocker -- changing their sites and content so as to improve their Google rankings. It's nice to see that these papers have grasped the concept that's eluded so many of their compatriots: that Google is an asset, not an enemy. They realize it's a wonderful tool to grow their audience, rather than imagining it's trying to steal it. If papers continue down their closed-shop path and ignore and actively resist sites like Google and continue to make it difficult for readers to access their content, they'll become more and more irrelevant. By embracing Google, and figuring out how to use it to their advantage, newspapers might actually find some growth in this whole internet thing.
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