Stop Blaming Google For Your Own Mistakes

from the say-it-loud dept

With plenty of attention going towards Eric Schmidt’s attempt to convince newspapers that Google is helping, rather than hurting them, the much more interesting thing to read is Danny Sullivan’s absolutely brilliant outpouring of frustration to newspaper industry execs and publishers, thinking back to a presentation he gave to (as he describes it) “a hostile audience” a few years ago — where they were all missing the point. And, they’re still bringing up the exact same wrong points today. Sullivan gets it exactly right. He takes the industry to task for lashing out (incorrectly) at everyone else for their problems, rather than recognizing that they’re the ones who need to change in order to keep up with the market. The problems they’re facing aren’t because of Google or blogs. It’s because they haven’t kept up and haven’t kept serving their market. In fact, he points out how much Google loves newspapers, and the newspapers are doing everything to spit back in Google’s face:

I also explained that unlike virtually all other publishers on the internet, newspapers were given extraordinary special status with Google. They were among the very select few to be admitted into Google News and receive the huge amounts of traffic it could send their ways. That many small blogs with excellent content struggle for admittance that these other publishers just got handed to them on a silver platter.

My favorite part, though, may be Danny’s response to the silly idea that newspapers should take their content offline for a week. We discussed that back in February, but Danny gets to the heart of the matter:

Please get all your newspaper colleagues to agree to a national “Just say no to Google” week. I beg you, please do it. Then I can see if these things I think will happen do happen:

  • Papers go “oh shit,” we really get a lot of traffic from Google for free, and we actually do earn something off those page views
  • Papers go “oh shit,” turns out people can find news from other sources
  • Papers go “oh shit,” being out of Google didn’t magically solve all our other problems overnight, but now we have no one else to blame.

Indeed. But there seems to be some sort of incredible “logic blindness” that blocks newspaper industry execs from getting these simple facts.

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Comments on “Stop Blaming Google For Your Own Mistakes”

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NPGMBR (profile) says:


I believe newspapers should stop blaming Google for their falling revenue and loss of control of their content. What they need to do is join together in an effort to take control back from Google and ask readers to pay for access to their sites. I know a lot of peole don’t like that but I have no problem paying for the content I want to access as long at the price is reasonable.

Tgeigs says:

Re: Exactly

“I have no problem paying for the content I want to access as long at the price is reasonable”

Admirable, but entirely missing the point of this article as I read it. If you should be paying anyone, it’s Google for aggregating the content you want and pointing you in the correct direction. The point here is that Google is providing a beneficial service to you the reader AND the newspaper with online content by connecting the two. Google is literally providing readership for the papers, who make money from ads on the online content. That they now want to charge Google for RECEIVING that service is so beyond reason as to be laughable.

NPGMBR (profile) says:

Re: Re: Exactly

Ummmm…. what makes you think I use Google to get to the sites I want? I don’t use any search engine to find my way to the sites I want because I find it completely pointless to do such a thing when I know the addresses of the sites I want.

I’m not advocating that Google should newspapers, but since Google sits back on its ass and links to the content of others and rakes in the cash. What im saying is that the newspapers should take control from Google and put readers on a subscrption for access. I don’t care how Google fares in this argument because I rarely use Google to find anything.

TheStuipdOne says:

Re: Exactly

You are paying, the price is very reasonable. They feed you ads. The price you pay is seeing those ads. Actual dollars come from the advertisers (maybe even adsense).

I think that if you actually want to help out the newspaper then you could click on ads that are interesting to you and make a purchase from an ad.

NPGMBR (profile) says:

Re: Re: Exactly

Well I guess thats part of the problem. I don’t pay any attention to ads and have clicked on no more than 10 ads in the entire time I’ve been on the net. For the most part ads are worthless to me. For one thing I block all cookies with the exception of the sites I trust so aggrigators like Google have little information on my habits in order to feed me ads about crap I wouldn’t care about anyway.

dataGuy (profile) says:

The Internet isn't what killed them

Newspapers died when they switched from reporting the facts and trying to keep aware of their bias to pushing their spin/agenda. This is a death that has been coming for decades; well before web browsers even existed.

I think the last election cycle, with more people reading alternative viewpoints on the web, has pushed newspaper and mass media to the edge of the cliff. I’m a little surprised that they don’t know just how dead they are.

R. Miles says:

Fascinating observation.

Everyone remembers the fiasco that occurred with the Napster vs. the labels, and finally the result.

I’m stunned no one in the industry having a similar distribution situation never, ever learned from this.

Idiots. Let them fail. They deserve it, especially when all the history of the Napster/iTunes change gave them a head’s up on their fate.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don't read the newspaper much, and it isn't because of Google.

Newspapers used to be the main venue for advertisers. But advertisers follow the eyeballs. Eyeballs have moved to cable TV and the Internet, and the advertisers have followed. Newspapers have to figure out how to get eyeballs back. Advertisers follow eyeballs, and revenue follows the advertisers.

I will admit to being an information junkie. I used to read the paper from the front page to the last page every day. I think I stopped reading it that aggressively when I got cable TV and 24-hour news and things like the Discovery Channel. Then, of course, the Internet came along and had everything I needed to support my information addiction.

I dropped my newspaper subscription to weekend-only when the parakeet died. If I stop fishing I probably will drop my subscription entirely because I won’t have any need for the newspaper at all.

If the Internet is killing newspapers it is not because Google and the aggregaters are “stealing” their revenue. The Internet and cable TV are alternate news and information sources.

Anonymous Coward says:

News papers in general are an amalgamation of many different topics and subjects. Most newspapers contain front-page, business, sports, classified et. sections. A format that was great when one had one or several sources source of information in one city.

Now the newspaper is the internet, not the web site.
Now there are hundreds of amalgamation sites with exactly the above mentioned format that are doing rather badly. Then there are sites like RealClearMarkets which collects and amalgamation only market issues or Slash dots geared to nerds that are doing rather well.

One could venture to say that sites like the New York Times are doing badly because they want you to register to receive the exact same information that you may get from many other sources easier. These sites are suffering now and all the demands for payment to access their precious widely available public knowledge will do is force more people to other more user friendly sources.

Hulser says:

Short attention span vs fair use

I’m sure that the information provided on Google News is designed to be short enough to conform to fair use rights. If you want the full story, you click the link and go to the newspaper’s web site. Everybody wins, right? Google gets traffic for adding value by providing the aggregation service and the newspaper gets traffic from the people who click through from Google News.

But here’s where I think the disconnect is. I think there are a lot of people like me who either have a short attention span or just a simple lack of time who would only read the short snippets on Google News and never or at least infrequently click through to the newspaper’s site. So, there’s probably a major group of people who get all the value they want from just the fair-use-sized snippets.

Personally I think that the information provided by Google News does fall under fair use, but perhaps the problem is not that the newspapers fail to realize they’re getting traffic from Google News, but that they believe they would recieve more traffic if Google News didn’t exist. It comes down to how many people you think just read the snippets versus how many actually click through.

Donald says:

If the papers think they would get more traffic without Google News pointing their way, I think they are mistaken. After all, if people used normal internet search (on the site of your choice) for news, you’ll turn up all sorts of alternative sources such as blogs. Especially if the mainstream media pages are behind registration or pay walls, and so don’t have many incoming links. Losing their priority places on a dedicated news search engine has to hurt more than the gaining people who don’t click through after reading the headline. Plus when I do a normal search on google for “earthquake in italy” the page results already tell me that around 150-250 died in a richter scale 6.3 quake.

The headlines and the first few lines shown on Google News (and presumably other news search sites/aggregators) are no more than you would get from scanning the boards outside a newsagent. If the papers think that Google is somehow unfairly profiting from using the newspaper headlines to draw traffic and pass it on to the papers, will they also ban newsagents from putting up billbaords with the headlines as presumably newsagents are maliciously using these to draw people into the shop and then selling things like chocolates to them. Somehow I don’t think so.

Hulser says:

Re: Re:

If the papers think they would get more traffic without Google News pointing their way, I think they are mistaken.

Actually, I think they’re mistaken too. The point of my earlier post isn’t that the newspapers are correct in this belief, just that the belief might explain the disconnect. Specifically, if Techdirt and others keep on asking the question “Why don’t newspaper understand that they benefit from Google News?” when the newspapers do understand this, but just undervalue the benefit, common ground will never be achieved.

Losing their priority places on a dedicated news search engine has to hurt more than the gaining people who don’t click through after reading the headline.

You and I might agree that this is true, but when you believe that traffic is rightfully yours, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of focusing too much on what should be rather than what is.

The headlines and the first few lines shown on Google News (and presumably other news search sites/aggregators) are no more than you would get from scanning the boards outside a newsagent.

The difference is that if I pick up a paper and a news stand and spend 15 minutes reading the headlines and the first chapter of the stories, the proprieter is probably going to kick me out. Their righeous sense that I’m freeloading will override the logical argument that I’m more likely to buy the paper or some gum the longer I stay. And this gets back to my point. If you run a news stand and think that you can make more money off gum and other products from the “freeloaders”, you won’t care if I stand there all day and read the newspaper cover to cover. So, it’s not about right or wrong or about whether you’re losing value unfairly, but if you’ll make up for that “lost” value in the long run.

Felix Pleșoianu (user link) says:

I especially liked this quote:

By creating scarcity, we might finally get fair value for the work we do. — Anthony Moor of the Dallas Morning News

I think it’s pretty clear. This guy knows he’s producing no real value. The only thing he knows how to do is to force the market into a zero-sum game, like the proverbial glazier paying a kid from the neighborhood to break perfectly good windows for him to fix. Well guess what, some of us actually celebrate the end of (certain kinds of) scarcity.

Jonathan L. (user link) says:

Solution for newspapers: Raise internet ad rate prices.

Readers are not newspapers’ customers. The advertisers are. The job of pretty much any modern newspaper is to cram as many ads onto as little paper as possible, then flow “news” around it. Ideally, that news is appealing enough for the newspaper to get lots of readers. Readership is the commodity that newspapers are selling to advertisers.

If the transition to the internet is not generating sufficient revenue for newspapers, despite the traffic that Google sends their way, the newspapers should raise their internet ad rate prices.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

The Most Basic Shortcoming of Newspapers: The Failure of Investigative Reporting.

People who have any reasonable degree of power operate on the public relations model. They lock their doors, provide doorkeepers, and only reveal to a reporter those things which they want published, or are legally required to publish. Computers have helped the process along by reducing the number of people within the organization who have “need-to-know,” and these are likely to be people whose interests are aligned with those of the organization (eg. they have stock options). Investigative reporting only works within very narrow limits. Generally speaking, an employee who has something to tell will talk to a reporter, without at least tacit authorization, only under about the same circumstances in which he might go to the police. So the reporter is inevitably driven back to press conferences and press releases. Nowadays, everyone has his own website, and the PR operator can publish without the intervention of a newspaper. For the vast majority of corporations, government agencies, etc., the newspaper has little or no advantage over the blogger.

The classic triumph of investigative journalism was of course Watergate. Watergate started with CIA agents who had been caught red-handed in burglarizing an office, and who had been arrested by the ordinary police. It spread as people who had committed crimes on the orders of the president became afraid that the president would cause them to be sent to prison as expendable scapegoats. The one important advantage the reporters had over the police was that statements made to a reporter, while serving to shift blame onto the boss, were legally hearsay. A policeman would have to caution the speaker, and read him his Miranda rights. Now, of course, WikiLeaks performs the same function. A subordinate criminal afraid of getting caught can circulate particulars without making a legal confession.

Even Watergate operated under fairly specific circumstances. Most importantly, Richard Nixon would not submit to blackmail. He preferred to resign his office, rather than to halt the Watergate investigation with a few well-placed commutations and/or pardons. His contemporaries called him “Richard III,” conceding that whatever his faults, he would choose to die bravely on Bosworth Field (parenthetically, the contemporary pundits would have meant Richard III as played by Sir Laurence Olivier in the 1956 film). Of course, as Scooter Libby discovered to his advantage, George W. Bush is not so fine a man as Richard Nixon was. He had been called “George III,” the mad king misled by his advisers, but perhaps an even more apt comparison might be Christopher Marlowe’s morally pathetic “Edward The Second,” with Dick Cheney as the court favorite Piers Gaveston. Under the circumstances, “Investigative Journalism,” as practiced by Judith Miller and Toni Locy, rapidly degenerated into a shameful collaboration with the Bush regime in its efforts to vilify its critics and divert blame for its crimes.

It was bloggers who offered impressive resistance, and could not be bought off.

There are of course special cases and exceptions to the difficulties of investigative reporting. For example, it is not too difficult to report on the working conditions of casually employed workers. A good many reporters have managed to get casual employment and then report about it.

trilobug says:

One less thing my dog has to fetch

Nowadays, I like reading about my news when it happens not they day after. Granted, more in-depth time-consuming analysis is necessary, but really there’s no reason I can’t get that too online. Newspapers cannot get me my news when it happens and again I want that. The most valuable thing in the newspaper for me are the Best Buy inserts. That and they leave a streak-free shine on my car windows.

Patty (profile) says:

Newspapers failing to change - The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Philadelphia Inquirer is a perfect example. –

Why in heaven’s name do they take up valuable room on the home page with a PICTURE of the front page of the Print version? It boggles the mind.

The same organization has now taken to littering the lawns in my community with polybagged wads of circulars. Printed circulars. I called the boro to complain and they have received many complaints. I cannot understand how thinks it is a wise use of their money to print and deliver ads which no one seems to look at, especially when they are in Chapter 11. This is their idea of innovation? Evidently, it is.

Hulser says:

Re: Re:

google news presents pretty much the entire story on a google page, without encouraging people to visit their websites?


1) Are you saying that you think the length of the excerpt shown on Google News violates fair use? I think that the inverted triangle model of article writing means that many people can get all that they want out of the snippet available on Google News, but this doesn’t mean that the snippet violates fair use. After all, there is the rest of the story that many other people would want to read.

2) What do you mean by not encouraging? Isn’t the mere existance of the link encouraging people to visit the newspaper’s site? What would be an appropriate level of encouragement?

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I am saying I have no idea – from all this fussing and spitting, I haven’t seen any good examples of what the news people like and don’t like. Are they upset at all google traffic? Are the upset at the way google re-uses news? is it all about stuff in google reader?

I am just not getting their point, and so far none of the stories on this have done a good job to show what they are actually upset about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Our local newspaper charges an extra $5 a month if you want to have access to the digital version (and your a current physical paper subscriber)… it is $10 a month if you just want the digital version.
All they do is pull the feed from the AP type machine and re-print it, add local weather and charge for it. I have checked the working for 99% of their articles is the exact same from the AP source. I picked up the phone can call them on it… there only response was “how else can we make money?”… my response was through advertising and increased circulation? They seemed like a foreign concept and actual work trying to find advertisers.
I guess their ignorance is way they are having major finical problems. Original content I will pay for but not for regurgitation of material I can access for free else where.

bowerbird (profile) says:

the newspapers are dinosaur corporations.
the recording companies are dinosaur corporations.
the movie companies are dinosaur corporations.
the book publishers are dinosaur corporations.

the real question should be this:
when are you going to stop expecting the dinosaurs to change?

they’re dinosaurs. they will never change. they will just go extinct.

you’re wasting your time thinking you can change a dinosaur mind.

and you’re wasting my time too.

turn your attention to the mammals. show them how to take over…


msbpodcast (user link) says:

Journalism however is definitely NOT DEAD.

The paper part of the newspaper is dead … Get over it.

The only thing that will remain is going to be vanity presses like HP is proposing with their printing service [ ]

We didn’t fight for the rights of the buggy whip makers either … Suck it up.

Journalism however is definitely NOT DEAD.

It has been democratized, popularized, localized, opened up, opened on and opened for a new business model.

If you worked as an editor or for an editor, you are going to find that the average person hasn’t suddenly improved in spelling or grammar, logic or comprehension, ability to communicate or in layout skills.

We just have to find you a new way to get news that you write out there; .PDF files on your servers being distributed via RSS files that the Post Office has on their server and that gives access to the latest content for $ would go a long way towards granting you a new lease on life.

The RSS file can even contain the highlights and a little bit of text from the articles which are still on your servers.

Actually, you can extract the words from your articles, remove duplicates, sort them, and let Google be able to include or eliminate an article from a search, present the little highlight snatch of text to let potential readers determine if they are interested and then the post office can: 1) let subscribers access the article OR 2) charge for access to the article.

This last part, subscription fulfillment or piece-meal charging, would be done by the post office. Nobody has ever had a problem paying for a stamp or expected a letter to be delivered without a stamp.

Once the “news” becomes the “olds”, say after a week for most articles, let Gooogle have at the original that you can store in a separate server.

a) The transmission of the articles is almost free.

b) The distribution of the articles is almost free.

c) The access is cheap but NOT free and the post office sees to that and that helps them with their business model.

d) The post office send you a share of the money collected (and YOU KNOW HOW OFTEN AN ARTICLE IS FETCHED OFF OF YOUR SERVERS FROM A PARTICULAR IP ADDRESS.)

There is a business model that would work, it would
1) let new gathering organizations gather news,
2) let readers read,
3) let the post office disseminate and collect payments and disburse funds

Anthony Moor (user link) says:

That silly idea

My name is Anthony Moor, and I’m now the guy attributed with the silly idea of stopping indexing of news content by Google for a week.

Just to clarify, I didn’t say that. I was misquoted. Quite the contrary, I emphasized to reporter Dirk Smillie that search engines are the default home page for people using the Internet, and as such, direct a lot of traffic to us. That traffic is important. I don’t believe Google is “stealing” our content. And I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek about ‘turning off’ to Google. We don’t matter much to Google.

I wasn’t talking about stopping indexing our sites on Google. I was musing about what might happen if all news sites stopped publishing news on the Web… stopped digital publishing.. for a week. What would happen? Would they survive? (Maybe.)

I told Dirk this was one of those things I fantasized about late at night… as kind of a thought experiment. I think it’s an interesting question. I didn’t articulate it very well and it wasn’t a serious proposal.

Google organizes the Web. Something needs to do that. My concern is that they’re effectively a monopoly player in that space. Oh sure, there’s Yahoo, but who “Yahoos” information on the Web?

So I’m much more concerned about the unequal relationship between Google and the rest of the Internet. They are so big and so important to the ecosystem that there is little we can do to affect that relationship except game Google (getting our search results higher via SEO etc.) In a sense, their technology dictates the audience and business terms of the Web.

What I wish could really happen is an organization and search schema that is open standards based that resides outside one company’s secret algorithms. I think the Semantic Web holds that promise — a peer-to-peer infrastructure where information “talks” to other information in a common meta-language. Done right, you might not need Google.

Google uses links to organize the Web. The Semantic Web uses information about information to organize the Web. Arguably it’s more powerful. And if it weren’t “owned” by anyone, then we all might benefit in proportion to our information’s relevance and not watch most of the money flowing to Google.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

What Newspapers Want, Why They Fail

To Weird Harold, #25:

What the newspapers are unhappy about is essentially their lost monopolies. Most of these monopolies were things they never had any sort of legal right to, either by intellectual property law, or by any kind of moral rights. They didn’t own the houses and apartments which got listed in the real estate section, nor the stores which might run display ads, still less the people who read the ads. There were lots of people doing national news, international news, and features, long before the internet. If you wanted to pay a premium price for something better than the local newspaper, you could get the big national papers at a good newsstand, or you could get a paper like the Christian Science Monitor mailed to you. Then, of course, there were various kinds of professional journals, which were still more expensive. The local newspapers, and the big chains made up of local newspapers, maintained a monopoly because most people didn’t want to pay a premium price. The newspapers had no identifiable legal or moral rights to any of this– it was just that the costs of setting up printing presses precluded competition. The one thing the newspapers are potentially good at, local news, was never very much of a moneymaker. There’s a saying, no news is good news. People don’t tend to stay and study bad local news– they move away from it.

What the newspapers want is that someone, anyone, will become their new sugar-daddy. They don’t care whether it’s the government, or Google, or whoever.

To Anthony Moor, Dallas Morning News, #34:

I take it you have been following the FBI raids on Core IP and Crydon Technology. This is important national news, which happened to take place in Dallas. The proprietors of these companies, Mike Faulkner and Matthew Simpson, have circulated self-serving statements on the internet, of course. They do not begin to address the chapter and verse of the FBI affidavit, referred to below.

As of 3:22 PM on Tuesday, April 7, Wired had obtained and posted the FBI’s application for a search warrant for Crydon Technology, and had put up an article on the strength of it. The warrant was signed back in March, and I am not sure exactly when it was unsealed. As of today, the Dallas Morning News website site provides a WFAA-TV story datelined 12:14 PM CDT on Tuesday, April 7, stating the bare fact that Core IP had been raided, and commentary informed by Mathew Simpson’s press releases.

The FBI affidavit is an interesting document. It is essentially a recital of Special Agent Allen Lynd’s efforts to check out the references which Crydon Technology, or one of its sub-entities, gave AT&T in order to obtain wholesale telephone service valued at millions of dollars.AT&T’s routine check of a business reference with Verizon had revealed that Verizon had never heard of the reference which it had supposedly given, and both companies called the FBI. The FBI began checking in more detail, and found more strange facts. For example Special Agent Lynd found that the corporate billing address for Crydon was a Mailbox-type store, and on showing his badge, he was informed that once the mailbox was rented, no one had ever come to retrieve mail, and was shown a pile of accumulated telecommunications company bills. When he showed Crydon’s letter of reference to the bank which had supposedly issued it, the bank denounced it as a forgery. And a lot more of the same. Lynd became convinced, based in interlocking addresses, telephone numbers, and references, that Crydon Technology and Core IP were one and the same, with a large number of attached paper companies, and that Faulkner and Simpson were the proprietors of this joint entity.

On the face of it, it seems pretty evident that Faulkner and Simpson are a pair of rogues, who may have acquired a few legitimate customers by way of protective coloration. There is a suggesting that they may have been attempting to acquire a “pwned” credit-card processing company by covert means, which would have enabled them to steal the identities of millions of people and create billions of dollars of fictitious charges.

The Crydon Technologies/Core IP story initially surfaced on the web by virtue of the owners’ posted messages. They were attempting to generate a wave of uninformed sympathy which would get the raids called off. I don’t know exactly when the Lynd affidavit was made available to the press, and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt about when your deadline was. However, I don’t quite see how your newspaper could have been expected to report the story at a comparable level, based on actual reportage, rather than merely collecting press releases. Special Agent Lynd has a badge, and you do not, and assorted bankers, telecommunications company service representatives, landlord’s agents, etc., looked at the badge and decided to waive the confidentiality which a customer might ordinarily expect. To get that kind of information, you would almost certainly have had to engage in “false pretenses.” After the raids had taken place, the FBI naturally pointed the press towards the affidavit once it had been unsealed, by way of self-justification. So. Show me what meaningful contribution the Dallas Morning News made to the story.

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