Why Google Isn't Stealing Newspaper Content

from the make-it-stop dept

This is just getting ridiculous. Google may have signaled its willingness to pay up with its deal with AFP, and now it seems that newspaper publishers are interested in taking them up on the offer. OJR reports that Sam Zell, who is in the process of buying the Tribune Company, has lashed out at publishers for letting Google "steal" their content: "If all the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content for nothing, what would Google do, and how profitable would Google be?" This sounds quite similar to columnist David Lazarus' "plan" to save the newspaper industry. Unfortunately, they've got the situation completely backwards.

Google is not "stealing" content. They're also not making their money off of other's content. What they're doing is making that content a lot more valuable by making it much easier to find. Google isn't making money on the content -- but on driving more people to that content (and on the news side, they don't make any money directly, since they don't run ads on Google News). It's bizarre that this is so difficult for those in the publishing industry to understand. You don't yell at the phone book for "making money" off of your contact information. You don't yell at tour books for "making money" off of other people's locations. You recognize that they make money by being a guide or a directory -- just like Google. Either way, it doesn't bode well that the guy who's taking over the Tribune Company doesn't seem to have the slightest clue how Google works or how it's helping, not hurting, the business he's in the process of buying.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 6:57am

    Either way, it doesn't bode well that the guy who's taking over the Tribune Company doesn't seem to have the slightest clue how Google works or how it's helping, not hurting, the business he's in the process of buying.

    I have arrived to an equal yet opposite conclusion.

    Either way, it doesn't bode well that the guy who's taking over the Tribune Company seems to understand how to extort money from google by threatening to ruin it for everybody unless he gets the % of profits he is accustomed to.

     

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  2.  
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    Allen Runnymeade, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 7:11am

    Sam Zell impresses me as a guy who will get a very rude wake up call from the impact of new media. While he has a very good track record of squeezing juice out of seemingly dry fruit, this current situation could prove beyond his capabilities, unless he changes his tune quick. He faces a tough task right out of the box trying to convince regulators that they should extend waivers for Tribune's multiple cross-ownerships. Selling off the television stations will provide short-term cash, but also, only a short term fix. I am rooting for a newspaper revival, especially for some of our flagship newspapers. But with such a narrow view of the new media landscape, I don't think Sam Zell is the man to lead the charge.

     

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  3.  
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    Faceless Minion, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 7:13am

    I fail to see how this will ruin things. Let's see how I arrived at my conclusion.

    1. Google will stop running any site that protests its being run.
    2. People that are running sites, and threatening google, are money grubbing morons.
    3. Money grubbing morons are concerned, mainly, with grubbing money, not with actually working on quality news programming.
    4. Quality news programming, with intelligent, considerate, non-moron people running it, will float to the top.

    Everybody wins, except the morons.

     

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  4.  
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    Faceless Minion, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 7:15am

    Number two should read "are led by money-grubbing morons", naturally. I havent had my proper caffiene intake yet.

     

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  5.  
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    Mark Murphy, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 7:30am

    Flawed Analogies

    You don't yell at the phone book for "making money" off of your contact information. You don't yell at tour books for "making money" off of other people's locations.

    In both of those cases, though, the stuff being "stolen" are facts (contact information, addresses/historical information), which aren't copyrightable.

    In a "strict constructionist" sense, AFP and Mr. Zell are correct: Google is committing copyright infringement. However, so is much of the technology of the Internet (e.g., proxy servers, routers, content filters, search engines, hosted feed-readers). That's why things like robots.txt are opt-out; if they were opt-in, the Internet would fall apart. It also suggests that there's an implied extension of the fair use doctrine (right to copy as part of a requested point-to-point delivery of information, and the right to develop indices of information published publicly) that really needs to be codified.

    Mr. Zell should be able to do a financial analysis comparing what he's making off search engine traffic today vs. what he'd make if search engines were blocked. I suspect the math works in favor of him keeping the search engine traffic, but who knows?

     

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  6.  
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    Kelly, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 7:31am

    Oh really?

    As an individual, not a company, I yell at the phone book companies for making money off of my information, or worse yet charging me $5 a month for the "privilege" of not having my information sold to anybody and everybody.

     

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  7.  
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    Greg, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 8:36am

    Mark Murphy: How is Google infringing? I'm pretty sure they're just linking to content, not copying any of the content over to their servers. Beyond publishing headlines and maybe a short excerpt, which is probably Fair Use, and Google Cache, which is a wholly different issue, I honestly don't see where there are Copyright issues.

    The analogy about yelling at the phone book is perfect for describing this. Plus I'm cracking up at the mental image of a guy yelling at a phone book.

     

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  8.  
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    Bill, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 8:40am

    Question

    explain to me how this works....
    Newspapers make money from advertising and subscriptions. How exactly does Google help that?
    If I am a writer for my local paper that is then indexed and shown on Google news.... personally I may not care (more exposure for me) but in terms of running a business, this does nothing for the paper. In fact, I agree with the earlier comment.. the paper owns the content, not Google.
    That being said, I do feel news should be free for all but that is just not how our capitalistic society is constructed unless the owner(s) of the content (the papers) care to share it.

     

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  9.  
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    us historian, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 8:51am

    xenophobic media

    we've been through this phase before... our country woke up and opened their eyes.

    Those that want to maintain control of readership will put subscriptions on their website content (i.e. NYTimes) and have to decide if the revenue from subscriptions offsets the loss of revenue from advertising hits.

    by the way, Mr. Zell, I don't read the NYTimes anymore. hint, hint

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 8:55am

    My approach to the whole thing would be to just stop "stealing" (indexing) their content, and let them disappear from any search results.

    Then when their traffic drops through the floor and their web advertising revenue drops to zero, they'll come back and beg to be included.

    And if their traffic doesn't drop, they didn't need serach engines anyway.

    Search engines are providing content owners a service, making ther content findable. They should have to pay content owners as well?

     

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  11.  
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    Matt, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 9:17am

    From TFA...

    The parent article was completely opposed to Zell's stand on the issue. There are going to be a lot of examples of papers "getting it right" with regards to internet competition. One that does is my local paper, "The Baltimore Sun".

    The Sun is prominent on my google news page because of it's good local coverage and lively letters page. When I find an intersesting local article, I often read it on the paper's site, look there for background information, and visit the letters page to see what's being said about it.

    The Sun is a Tribune paper however, so if Zell implements this policy, I'll get my local news from one of the local TV station sites (not the FOX station!).

     

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  12.  
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    cjmemay, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 9:21am

    Robots.txt

    I could be way out of line here, but I dont see what the big problem is with making robots.txt and opt-in technology.
    If you want your content to be spidered:

    User-agent: *
    Allow:

    If not, then nothing.

    I know it isn't the way the web traditionally works, and I more than most despise over-legislation, but, if the new guys want to get into the game with the old guys, they are going to have to play by their rules. Right?

    If robots.txt were opt-in and the papers don't want their sites to be indexed, go ahead. It will only result in their faster demise.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong.

     

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  13.  
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    James, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 9:46am

    Personally

    I wish Google would just cut them OFF completely. Let them fester, its very llikely most other sites appreciate the amount of traffic Google sends them.

     

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  14.  
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    Commen Tor, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 10:07am

    Funny isn;t it

    How ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, but is mostly the driving force behind many new laws that are created.

     

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  15.  
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    Brad Eleven, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 10:38am

    re: Robots.txt

    If robots.txt were opt-in technology, site owners would have to create the [admittedly trivial] file to allow their sites to be crawled. IMHO, this would prevent a lot of interesting content to be located, indexed, presented, scraped, etc., by Google, Yahoo, MSN, ... &c.

    Murphy's point is that if permission to crawl was required, most of the indexed content would never have been found. Further, I contend that even those sites in the opt-in robots.txt model with admins smart enough to be aware that (a) yes, they do want to be crawled, and (b) how to enable exposure... many of these admins would blow it anyway: improper syntax, complicated rules, ...

    Murphy's comment is the most cogent one so far: The Internet's beauty lies in its openness. Put something up that people find interesting, and they'll find a way to get to it, and to look at it, over and over. If you shut off access, or just plain go under, someone will have mirrored it.

    It's a (mostly) merit-based popularity contest. The winners get the most eyeballs.

     

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  16.  
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    Stephen Golub, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 11:05am

    Y'know, the problem with every older industry (music, newspaper, etc) is they don't want to change. In order for these companies to adapt and continually make money, they can't plant their feet and try to force the whole world to stop progressing forward. Life doesn't work that way.

    In my own opinion, I think Google should charge the newspapers for listing their content on their site so that it gets more coverage. I know that goes against what Google stands for, but seriously, enough is enough and people it's time for the new people to start telling the older people to wake-up (something akin to EMI opening up it's digital music catalog = good move).

     

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  17.  
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    john caddidy, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 11:14am

    Get over it, dudes

    time to get over it. you boys sound like little whiners. doesn't really make a darn bit of difference what happens in the real world -- in this case google agreeing to compensate the papers. you little ones remain apoplectic that the newspaper providers deserve any compensation at all.

    then again, that's entirely understandable given your business model. 4 yuppies farting in a one bedroom in belmont who produce NOTHING in the way of real info themselves. nope. you just rely on what others produce and then stick a finger in the wind and rant.

    at

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 11:44am

    Re: Get over it, dudes

    you boys sound like little whiners

    Ketle, I have someone I'd like you to meet. His name is Pott. I think you two will get along quite nicely.

     

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  19.  
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    Mark Murphy, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 12:25pm

    Google's Copying

    Who-hoo! I'm cogent! :-)

    How is Google infringing? I'm pretty sure they're just linking to content, not copying any of the content over to their servers. Beyond publishing headlines and maybe a short excerpt, which is probably Fair Use, and Google Cache, which is a wholly different issue, I honestly don't see where there are Copyright issues.

    Fair Use is reserved for "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research" per the Copyright Act of 1976. Google News is none of these, unless it's ruled that news aggregation qualifies as "news reporting". Google's cache is also none of these. It's possible that Google News and/or Google Cache would qualify as fair use under an extended test involving a set of criteria (see the Act, or Wikipedia's quote from the Act), but that's not nearly as obvious to armchair attorneys like yours truly. It's even possible that there's case law that already holds that aggregation or caching qualifies as fair use, but the Act doesn't specifically call for it.

    In theory, either the courts will clarify whether Google's techniques are fair use, or Congress will pass legislation one way or the other. Even though we're talking about them in the context of Google, aggregation and caching are two fundamental constructs of the Internet experience, so here's hoping that the decision-makers don't throw out the baby (a reasonable working Internet) with the bath water (protecting dewy-eyed newspapers from the rapacious greed of Google, as Mr. Zell might perceive it).

     

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  20.  
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    Jeff Price, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 1:22pm

    Headline Theft

    Google is no more stealing content than you are stealing a newspaper by reading the headline at the newsstand.

     

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  21.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 9th, 2007 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Question

    Newspapers make money from advertising and subscriptions. How exactly does Google help that?

    Advertising relies on people actually seeing the ads. If Google drives more traffic, more people see the ads. Pretty simple.

    If I am a writer for my local paper that is then indexed and shown on Google news.... personally I may not care (more exposure for me) but in terms of running a business, this does nothing for the paper. In fact, I agree with the earlier comment.. the paper owns the content, not Google.

    I'm afraid you may be confused about how Google News works. It only shows a headline and a short snippet and links to the actual newspaper site. Just like a regular Google search... So, the content isn't being shown on Google News. Google is just sending people to the actual newspaper website.

     

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  22.  
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    Vincent Clement (profile), Apr 9th, 2007 @ 3:09pm

    Re: Google's Copying

    The phrase "such as" means 'for example' or 'not limited too'. The actions listed after "purposes such as" list some obvious uses of Fair Use but do not represent an exhaustive or 'reserved' list of possible Fair Use situations. The meat of Section 107 is in the four factors.

    1) The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes?

    The purpose is to display relevant links to news based on generic terms such as "top stories" or specific search terms. The character of the use is the display of links, with a brief clip (usually one sentence) and a possible picture. There are no ads on the page, so the 'commercial nature' aspect does not come into play. Clicking on the link takes the user to the originating website - the Google News site drives traffic to originating websites.

    2) The nature of the copyrighted work?

    The copyrighted works are published news articles, many based on publicly available facts, typically available through various media outlets (tv, radio, newspapers, blogs, websites, etc). We are not talking government or trade secrets here - we are talking information that is widely available.

    3) The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole?

    Google only displays the title of story, maybe a one or two sentence clip from the story and/or a image, and the name of the source. The entire article is not reprinted on the Google News page and there are no cached versions. The link points to the originating website.

    4) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    Google News drives traffic to originating websites, therefore, it's effect upon the potential market or value of the copyrighted work is a positive one. Typically, in the business world, the more positive exposure your product or service has, the better the likelihood that your product or service will succeed.

    This armchair attorney believes that Google News is fair use that only increases the value of the original content.

     

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  23.  
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    Larry Davidson, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 3:22pm

    Of google is monetizing their news channel

    As Google CEO Eric Schmidt is fond of underscoring, the Google trick is to drive more searches, more uses of Google, which inevitably drives more revenues for Google, and financial returns for the Google shareholders.

    If Google didnt aggregate other peoples new on their site less users would visit google. Google is using copyrighted content to create a critcal mass mof users. Google should come to some arangement with these content owners or can the news site and just advertise their search feature.

     

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  24.  
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    Waarf, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 3:57pm

    Might be useful to you...

    I understand completely the major newspapers being upset about it.

    Mind you, Google News is not just gearing traffic towards major newspapers.

    On the contrary, a couple of times I have looked for information using Google News, and I have been steered to some obscure newspaper in Ohio or, more often than not, India. Google's ranking algorithm for news articles that relate to the same story often places "reliable" and well-informed sources well below small-circulation papers that simply copy/paste AP news.

    If I managed a major brand like NYT or Tribune, why would I rely on Google News to bring me traffic? That is putting my brand in direct comparison with smallish newspapers with little editorial value added. Besides, my brand alone gets me good amounts of traffic, so it doesn't interest me to get Google News traffic.

    However, the value to Google of letting people access my well-researched, well-informed articles through Google News interface is high; Google may not derive money directly from the news searches, but it promotes the Google brand by making people spend more time with Google.

    It's the same thing with Apple and Wal-Mart. Why aren't Macs sold at Wal-Mart or Best Buy? Those places are moving a lot of boxes, so one could say that Apple are shooting themselves in the foot, but why would Apple bother appearing in those stores next to no-brand PCs? The Apple retailers are few and far between, but they do draw crowds... and there, Apple controls the buying experience, have an opportunity to up-sell high-margin accessories, etc.

    Of course Techdirt is in the opposite situation: you guys probably benefit a lot more from Google News, comparatively, than major publications...

     

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  25.  
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    wal mart jr., Apr 9th, 2007 @ 4:26pm

    google will fester if it did not have content from others.

     

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  26.  
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    Matthew Rigdon, Apr 9th, 2007 @ 6:55pm

    I pay to have my information in the phone book

    That's why I don't yell at it. Somebody from the phone book called me up and asked me to pay money so my business could be listed. If I don't believe it's worth paying for, it doesn't go in. And the thing is, the phone book makes money because people pay to have their listings in it.

    The real question is would Google still be making so much money if no one was allowing them to put their news stories on Google News?

    I think a lot of this is a pre-emptive strike. As long as Google News never carries Google Ads, I don't believe any newspaper would mind having the stories listed. Google is doing the newspaper a favor.

    What the newspapers don't want is for Google to start putting their own ads on Google News because then Google IS using the newspaper content to make money for Google.

     

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  27.  
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    gabriel, Apr 10th, 2007 @ 3:05am

    But if Google agree to pay - ad it did with Afp - what's the problem? Do you think they need our help to collect money for the french? I think they got enough to pay all the newspaper that ask...all the important newspaper (in Belguim they didn't pay)

     

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  28.  
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    Enrico Suarve, Apr 10th, 2007 @ 4:47am

    Just some thoughts

    Firstly - sorry for the length of the post, to keep it as sort as possible I have had to paraphrase slightly, I hope I have not unduly altered the meaning of peoples posts

    Post #6 As an individual, not a company, I yell at the phone book companies for making money off of my information...charging me $5 a month for...not having my information sold

    Yes you are right - that sucks and if it is true then you should be seeking legal advice as I'm pretty sure that's blackmail. However this is not what Google is doing, it does not charge money for listings and does not charge money for removal - indeed this can be achieved by the sites themselves simply by putting 2 very short lines into a file 'robots.txt'


    Post #8 Newspapers make money from advertising and subscriptions. How exactly does Google help that?
    If I am a writer for my local paper that is then indexed and shown on Google news.... personally I may not care (more exposure for me) but in terms of running a business, this does nothing for the paper


    So you make money from advertising, the amount of money you make is directly related to the number of visits to your site, but you cannot see how a page that links relevant searches to your site helps you?


    Post #12
    ...I don't see what the big problem is with making robots.txt [an] opt-in technology...if the new guys want to get into the game with the old guys, they are going to have to play by their rules. Right?...

    Making the web opt in would be a very Bad Plan for all the reasons that Brad Eleven points out in Post #15. However you are right about new guys getting into the game with old guys, except you seem to fail to realise that the new guys here are the papers. They have only really embraced the internet relatively recently - robots.txt and the opt in methodology has been around since 1994, why should us old guys change the way the rest of the internet works just to allow a few newcomers to keep their outdated business models?

    You may have been drinking since you were 18, but don't come to my bar and expect to just take Old Jakes stool on your first visit ;0)


    Post # 17
    time to get over it. you boys sound like little whiners. doesn't really make a darn bit of difference what happens in the real world -- in this case google agreeing to compensate the papers

    ...and the horse you rode in on... My concern here is not just Google's acquiescing and what it means to Google, but to the wider precedent. Which is that some old duffers from the press are riding in and effectively changing the way the internet works, by abusing the courts own lack of knowledge. If I want to whine I will whine, if you don't like reading other peoples opinions stop going to sites where they express them


    Post #19
    Remember this is in France so the copyright act doesn't apply and neither does the 'fair use' clause which is American - sorry

    I think the reason this is fair though is that what are published are small extracts, which not only state the source but provide a mechanism to visit it (more than papers do when they quote each other). This combined with the fact that the method to stop what the papers are wrongly viewing as infringement exists, is public knowledge, and is easily implemented. These few papers CHOSE to go to court and argue this out in long-winded expensive legal actions, rather than ask their web developers to write two lines in a file...


    Post #24
    Google News is not just gearing traffic towards major newspapers...a couple of times I have looked for information using Google News, and I have been steered to some obscure newspaper...

    So the solution to this competition is to make sure your paper NEVER appears? Genius


    Post #27
    But if Google agree to pay - [as] it did with Afp - what's the problem?

    The problem with this is it kind of sets a precedent that this is the way to do business, which could in turn remove the ethos of the robots.txt file and opt-in, which in turn is damaging to the way the rest of the internet works. Wherever this type of boardroom idiocy makes its way into our community it should be shouted at just so we remember what is at stake


    In closing people seem to have a problem that Google make money from this venture - they do. What exactly is wrong with someone making money from sending business your way? Anyone who wants to advertise my business for free should feel free to do so - if you can find a way to make money for yourself whilst doing this, go for it with my blessing!

     

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  29.  
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    Hal Clark, Apr 10th, 2007 @ 10:37am

    Re: Question

    Heeellloooooo The newspaper cannot continue to sell adds if nobody looks at the add. Google acts as a vehicle for eyeballs to see the adds. Thats how google helps the paper make money.

     

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  30.  
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    E!, Apr 10th, 2007 @ 1:04pm

    driving ms. daily

    I think the problem is with the algorithm, as it's not administered fairly. I live in Chicago, where the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times are published, and I rarely (literally, like twice in the past 3 years) see articles from either of these newspapers pop up on Google News.
    And I access Google News at least 4 times each and every day.
    Now, if I'm a newspaper publisher in one of the top markets, and Google News never drives traffic my way, I'm not happy, as my competition is getting the traffic for stories that might very well be better (more thorough, more engaging, etc.) reported in my paper.

     

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  31.  
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    DSM, Apr 12th, 2007 @ 9:15am

    I'll keep it simple...

    The news isn't proprietary. It happens no matter who covers it. If people aren't subscribing to papers or whatever your internal-problems-transferred-to-others issue is, make the rest of content more interesting.

     

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


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