Could Newspaper Owners Really Be This Clueless?

from the they-don't-deserve-to-be-in-business dept

Just as stories are hitting the press about slow-to-innovate newspapers finally embracing the internet comes the news that a bunch of newspapers are quite upset that Google drives more traffic to their websites. This isn’t a first. Last year, AFP sued Google over the same issue — and Google yanked AFP stories out of their news index. This meant that newspapers that carried AFP stories lost out on a lot of valuable traffic. So, why are more newspapers trying to go down the same path? It would appear that like book publishers and telcos, they’re all jealous of Google’s ability to make money. The quotes from all three are almost identical. This latest one, from the newspapers is: “They’re building a new medium on the backs of our industry, without paying for any of the content.” But, that’s wrong. What Google is doing is making that content more valuable by making it easier to find. If the newspapers want to opt-out, that’s fine — but it ends up hurting them. This is all about jealousy that Google has figured out a way to make a lot of money by making their content more useful. That doesn’t take away from their content, but actually helps them — which is why the anger towards Google is so ridiculous. Maybe Google should just call their bluff, and take them out of the index. The main problem here is that it appears most newspapers don’t know what business they’re in — and that’s leading to very confused (and sometimes backwards) strategies. Chris Tolles, over at, drives home the point forcefully by pointing out that newspapers don’t recognize what business they’re in: “The newspaper of the future needs to fight for audience ?- fight for its life, before someone comes and takes it from them.” Dropping out of any aggregator service is a giant leap backwards. Any news provider moving in that direction isn’t trying to be a newspaper of the future… but one of the past. Update: A good point was made in the comments that I had totally forgotten about. This is even more ridiculous, because Google still hasn’t monetized Google News. In other words, they’re not making any money directly off of this, and yet the newspapers are still upset. That doesn’t apply to other news aggregators who do use ads, but since Google News seems to be the main target, it just emphasizes how ridiculous the newspaper publishers’ position really is.

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Comments on “Could Newspaper Owners Really Be This Clueless?”

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T says:

Google News has no advertising!

I don’t believe Google “has figured out a way to make a lot of money by making their content more useful.” because if you look at Google News, there are NO ads. There never have been, and there probably never will be precisely because of the “you’re profiting from our content” issue.

Joel says:

Re: Google News has no advertising!

To the guy that said there is no advertising on google, you’re absolutely wrong… Every heard of Google AdSense? Websites pay google to get their info put on a liitle border columns that are oly text, you can find them on alot, and i mean alot, of websites. Because people pay google to put their website info in special box things, google also pays other websites to put these bars on thier website. Heres a little diagram

Seller—>Google—->Some Joe’s Site about video games

yeah, go google.

Posterlogo says:

actually good for the smaller news organizations

I’ve noticed recently that I’m actually far more likely to visit unheard of newspaper’s websites when I see the story linked from google news snippets. Perhaps this has reduced my visits to the major news organization websites, but then that isn’t what they’re complaining about.

Michael says:

No Subject Given

One could argue that the newspapers are losing their identity via Google News. With Google acting as the portal, no one physically goes to the newspaper’s site anymore. They only get redirected there when a headline strikes their eye. The brand being imprinted is Google, not the newspaper.

Personally, I think this has a lot of merit. I, for one, don’t recall most of the newspapers I visit through Google. I simply know that Google provides news. That’s all I have to know.

I’m not everyone, of course. But I’m not alone either.

Joel (user link) says:

Old media meltdown

This kind of panicky screeching is typical for an industry facing extinction. The newspapers have dragged their feet getting into the Internet, and now that they’re here, they see they’re way behind the curve, and other players have long since established much bigger brands.
What’s fainly disgusting about all this whining is the underlying assumption that the old order which has dominated print since Hearst should somehow be clapped down onto the new media. But the situation is pretty much beyond that kind of control. The papers will have to join everyone else in the online media marketplace, and compete for viewers. Aggregators should be an integral component of that game plan.

Just one guy says:

... er, yes but...

… I guess the real point is that, even for newspaper, exposure is not really and directly linked to revenues.

Newspapers make money from subscriptions and advertisement. Local newspapers, therefore, make money from local subscriptions and local advertisement. Thinking that country-wide, and indeed world-wide exposure of your news may increase your local subscriptions and advertisements is a bit excessive. It may happen, and some local newspapers (e.g., the New York Times) have become nationally and internationally renowned and widely recognized. But it won’t happen for your local Smalltown Gazette any time soon, I believe.

I suddenly realized this when I started reading about the school pupil that got in jail for slowing down the school server asking users to repeatedly click on the reload button of the browser (which is the Denial Of Service version of the Albanian virus :-)… Anyway, I realized that I was perusing the web site of this local newspaper with no chance that these guys were interested in my traffic, considering that I would under no circumstance subscribe to their gazette nor visit any of their advertisers any time soon, since not only I am of out of state, but out of country as well… BTW, whatever happened to the guy eventually?

So what is the reason for Smalltown local news to end up in Google News anyway? How would the newspaper profit? Two weeks of great exposure because of a major crime being committed in Smalltown will not increase long term the subscribers or the advertisement intake of the newspaper, I believe…

Bounce says:

Re: Where do you think revenue comes from?

You said: “… I guess the real point is that, even for newspaper, exposure is not really and directly linked to revenues.”

That’s naive. Where do you think revenue comes from? It’s chiefly from advertisers, who pay to get exposure to your eyeballs, which increases when the newspaper gets more exposure to lots of people’s eyeballs. Don’t kid yourself: traffic is the real coin of the publication market. By comparison, subscriptions are chump change.

To address another point, good publications stand out, even in Google news. The listing algorythm is designed to support that. (In theory, more popularilty = more clicks = higher listing position.) I for one, visit techdirt and slashdot and, to name just a few, more because of Google news — but not just because of that. When I have a choice of many sources on a popular story, I recognize and click through to sources that I know report well.
News coverage quality had been decreasing for years, past the point of disservice to readers and to the point of crisis (IMHO). By allowing news consumers to easily compare publishing products (i.e., stories) Google news actually creates a competitive market for reader eyeballs. This is not a bad thing and is, in fact, and incentive for news sources to offer better-quality content.

And finally, let’s not shed too many tears for the publishing industry, which is about as regressive as they come. The idea that people want to use new-fangled com-poo-tors to access information on the IntraWeb is really just beginning to hit the industry as a whole. The concept that publishing could (and should) be more than a unidirectional we’ll-give-you-the-news-and-you’ll-like-it pipeline, the success of which is measured by the coarsest of distribution/circulation metrics, is an alien idea that major-media publishers pall to entertain. (Witness the recent shut down of the WaPo’s ombudsman forum, in response to reader outrage at the paper’s shoddy research. And the WaPo is one of the few pulp-and-rag publishers that has actually made a profit off of it’s online version).

At the end of the day, watching newspapers assault Google (or any free search tools) for their free listings is pathetic. It’s like watching an aging battleship sink, shelling its potential rescuers as it goes.

Stephen says:


Newspaper webmasters need learn what a ROBOTS.TXT file is used for.
If they want in on the internet they let the search engines in, if not they don’t let them in.
Unless of course one of them really thinks they have the guts to turn to Google and charge them a fee to allow the robots into the site to index it.
Thus giving the paper a fee for the content that Google is to display in the search index ands news pages.

scarrigan (user link) says:

newspapers, copyright and google

The real issue here is that newspapers and other content creators spend real money publishing their reports and photographs, which are protected IP under copyright law. Google is scraping these up and creating a derivative information product partly under the Fair Use exclusion to copyright law. They are not placing ads on the news portal page yet, but the assumption is they will. They are also building the Google brand and increasing the time users spend in the Google network, and encouraging users to convert to personalized Google. This means more opportunities to show Google ads, which is where Google makes its money. They’re doing that on the backs of the content creators without licensing or compensation. On the other hand, they are providing links to the source websites. If the content creators fail to make money, the content Google is profiting from goes away.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: newspapers, copyright and google

They’re doing that on the backs of the content creators without licensing or compensation.

This remains the as the most misleading and bogus excuse that defenders are spouting.

Google isn’t building something “on the backs” of others. They’ve built a useful service that adds value to those other content providers.

Bounce says:

Re: newspapers, copyright and google

That’s a red herring. Google is just part of a massive market of secondary news aggregators that include sites like Tech Dirt, IT Business Edge, and Yahoo News. Where’s the outrage over the rest of that market?

This isn’t about the principle of the thing — or even lost revenue due. It’s about greed and the publishing industry’s inability to innovate new business models that meet their customers’ demands.

In fact, news publishers benefit from aggregators like Google, because the aggregators segment the content more usefully and expose it to a wider audience than the original publishers could ever hope to reach or draw. Yes, Google benefits from that effort — as do other news aggregators — and they do it on the back of other publishers’ efforts. But this business and market model isn’t new or even uncommon.

So why, suddenly, are newspapers in a snit about Google? Because Google is making money (not because publishers are losing it). Nobody’s going to chase down Tech Dirt or publishers less obscure for referencing other media source. But Google is fat — a fat target. Publishers figure it won’t be too hard to carve out a pound of flesh, which is, anyway, easier and cheaper than changing themselves to make an honest buck. Really, that seems more like extortion than fair use.

Twisted Matrix says:

Re: Err..

If a newspaper wants to get webed then google is really the least of their worries. People in texas generally dont care about a local newspaper in indiana. National and International news is a different story tho. If a local paper wants to get hits then they need to concentrate on local advertising. Screw google. Build a professional web site, include local classifieds and a nice comprehensive local job-search that people can actually use to FIND jobs. People will go to your website because it is usefull, not because its on google.
Don’t get mad at google because they have more money then you. Get mad at google because they sold 50MB of your archived email to the russian government.

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