German Newspapers Want Google To Pay Them For Appearing In Search Results (Even As They Try To Rank Higher)

from the insanity-offense dept

About four years ago, you may recall, a group of German publishers were absolutely furious at Google for daring to send them traffic. At the time, they more or less admitted that they were just jealous that Google was able to earn revenue:

Hans-Joachim Fuhrmann, a spokesman for the German Newspaper Publishers Association, said the Web sites of all German newspapers and magazines together made 100 million euros, or $143 million, in ad revenue, while Google generated 1.2 billion euros from search advertising in Germany.

“Google says it brings us traffic, but the problem is that Google earns billions, and we earn nothing,” Mr. Fuhrmann said.

Of course, as we pointed out at the time, he was comparing apples to oranges. Google earns money from search advertising. And the newspapers earn money from advertising as well, so the claim that the newspapers earn “nothing” is wrong. However, two years later, the publishers convinced the German government to take a stand and claim that showing news snippets and linking to the source somehow required a license. That resulted in a legislative fight, ending last year with a somewhat watered down snippet law that no one was entirely sure applied to Google.

Well, it appears the publishers aren’t satisfied with how this has all worked out, because as Jeff Jarvis is pointing out, they’ve kicked off a legal arbitration process, in which they’re demanding 11% of gross worldwide revenue on any search result that includes one of their snippets. This has been filed by the VG Media industry group. This is bizarre on multiple levels, including the fact that if everyone was able to get that, given the “10 blue links” nature of Google, the company would have to pay out over 100% of its search revenue to the very same people they’re sending traffic to. That’s… ridiculous.

Of course, we’ve seen all of this before. In nearby Belgium, a bunch of newspapers demanded payment back in 2006, and a court then ordered Google to pay up. When Google, instead, decided to remove those newspapers from its index, the very same Belgian newspapers flipped out and demanded to be let back into Google. Eventually, for reasons that I still don’t understand, Google effectively decided to pay off the Belgian newspapers with a promise of vaguely helping them to make money online. I would imagine that the German newspapers are just looking for a similar handout. Same thing as French newspapers.

However, the example of the Belgians both demanding payment, but then also freaking out when they were removed from the index, is instructive. These newspapers receive tremendous benefits from being included in Google: Google sends them a ton of traffic. That’s why they got so upset when removed. The problem is that (1) they’re apparently bad at monetizing that traffic and (2) they’re jealous of Google, thus demanding a pay off of some sort. As Danny Sullivan writes about this latest lawsuit, the true hypocrisy is apparent in the fact that the German newspapers, supposedly so upset about Google listing them without paying, have not only done nothing to remove themselves from Google’s index (as can be easily done), but have actually made use of Google’s tools to enhance their appearance within Google.

As Sullivan notes, these newspapers aren’t being “swept up into Google’s results against their wills,” but rather appear to be “actively trying to gain more placement and visibility in them.” And that’s why this move for a cut of the revenue is so ridiculous and cynical. Basically, they’re getting an incredibly valuable service from Google for free and are now demanding to get paid for it as well.

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Companies: google, vg media

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Comments on “German Newspapers Want Google To Pay Them For Appearing In Search Results (Even As They Try To Rank Higher)”

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Baron von Robber says:

“Google says it brings us traffic, but the problem is that Google earns billions, and we earn nothing,” Mr. Fuhrmann said.

Google: We are sorry, Mr. Fuhrmann. We’ve corrected the situation. We no longer display results that point to your news source. Now, your competitors will display, but not yours.

Mr Fuhrmann: ?!

That One Guy (profile) says:

So, how’s that paying out to the Belgian and French newspapers looking now Google? Maybe wishing you’d had a bit more spine and given them what they asked for, rather than what they wanted?

By paying out when the newspapers came with their ridiculous demands, Google basically waded out into shark-infested waters and shot themselves in the foot, it’s hardly surprising that, upon scenting blood, it would get more attention from those looking for easy money, and it will continue to get more and more attention from parasites like this until it finally stands up to them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Google will no doubt play this the same way it played the Belgium case. Only were I Goggle, it would not include paying these newspapers nor VG Media industry group anything. Instead were I Google I would be demanding that 11% as a reinstatement fee. Since this is the price being sought as fair were they charged it for their access at the same price they thought fair, why should they object? It would place others with this scheme on notice what to expect in demanding more money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Normal businesses pay to get included in phone books but content companies have such an outsized sense of entitlement that they want to be paid to get included in the internet equivalent of a phone book. Imagine going to Burson-Marsteller and demanding they make an ad for you and then pay you for the privilege of advertising you.

And it’s not just the content companies. ISPs want to be paid twice even though the sender and receiver already both pay even though in physical shipping only the sender pays. There’s something very strange about the way people treat information.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ha, Didnt expect that to be published. Im not anon, Im MunKy, look me up.

100 million euros split between papers, compared to 1.2 billion to one company? Actually, that IS kinda unfair. And wtf, google are a search engine, not a fucking guardian doorway of the internet, how dare they remove results.

Not that I agree with newspapers either, but this is bloodsuckers sucking blood from evil bloodsuckers that promise not to do evil.

Fuck them ALL!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And wtf, google are a search engine, not a fucking guardian doorway of the internet, how dare they remove results.

When Google is sending them extra traffic, for free, and the newspapers turn around and demand to be paid for all that free traffic they’re getting, I’d say removing them from the results is about right.

If they’re going to claim that google is ‘stealing’ their traffic, then they should be glad to be de-listed,as obviously the traffic to their sites will increase without all that ‘stealing’ going on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Google is not sending them traffic for free. Yes its cheeky, but how many of these newspapers is making much of that 100 million euros? Id love to see the list broken down. Lets remember, that google makes 1200 million euros for that “free” advertising. Again, fuck them all, cheeky bastards imo 🙂

Lord_Unseen (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“100 million euros split between papers, compared to 1.2 billion to one company? Actually, that IS kinda unfair.”

Hardly. Google’s ad revenue is for all search ads they served in Germany. The newspapers, however, were just newspaper ads. News reporting is a niche (and a crowded niche at that), internet search is general. Google is guaranteed to get more traffic than a random newspaper because they do more. It’s a bit like a windshield repair shop complaining because they make less money than Ford. You can’t expect something with a niche market to make as much money as something with a general market, end of story.

Mr. Oizo says:

Why not ? It is just a different model of structuring information

I find the idea quite interesting actually. You give someone your info, they pay you. It is an interesting change to current practices, and one that might be beneficial for society. This was also discussed here, but then in the context of facebook:

Anonymous Coward says:

And there you see, in its natural habitat, the entitled.

When seeing a competitor making money, the entitled can often be seen engaging in a fighting ritual, challenging the competitor to give it money. The most common style seen in the wild is the “You’re making money, and you’ve benefited from what I’ve done, therefore I deserve to choose how much you owe me” dance. In this dance, young entitleds commonly make the mistake of thinking work done by others is theirs to reap from. This is the leading cause of pre-adulthood “You’re an idiot, fuck off” syndrome, which can be fatal to an entitled’s reputation in the tribe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“America and American companies need to stop being the welfare supplier of the world…leaches.”

Google dont care what borders they are in. They are not an “American” company, they are worldwide. They go where the money is. If you think the USA gives welfare to the world, is it also fair to say they are the world bullies and they beat kids up for money?

mark says:

At the moment the two big parties in power have over 80% of the seats in the parlament. And one of them actually owns a lot of papers. They already are discussing a new law that would require to guarantee newspapers top positions in Google Search! So simply delisting them wouldn’t work. They probably have to bribe like in france. Although “Axel Springer” and “Burda” probably would prefer if Google colluded with them to kill all the competition.

John85851 (profile) says:

And where's Bing?

Like the UK law demanding Google remove bad results, where is Bing? Why aren’t companies demanding Microsoft give them a cut of the ad income? Or are these companies basically admitting they don’t much from Bing so they’re not worth suing?

And like some other people are saying, when does Google decide it’s too much of a hassle to do business in Germany? Just shut down all Google services for anyone with a German IP address and see what happens.

KevinEHayden (profile) says:

One strike and you're out!

Google needs to grow a pair and put a policy in place whereby newspapers or other companies that initiate shakedowns like this are banned from the search results.
Once they start to fade away into obscurity, and they come back begging to be let into the results again, Google should make them sign an agreement prohibiting them from ever suing it again.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Makes perfect sense actually, Google has shown in the past that they’ll cave if enough pressure is put on them, the newspapers and politicians are probably banking on Google just giving in and paying out(again), rather than pulling out of an entire country.

This despite the fact that each time they cave in to tactics like this, it just increases the odds of it happening again, whereas if they stood up even once such tactics would never be considered in any other country due to the public backlash against any politician who tried it.

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