Want To Know Why Newspapers Are Dying? Maureen Dowd Shows Us

from the physician-heal-thyself dept

In her recent New York Times op-ed, Maureen Dowd takes aim at Google, blaming it for the sorry state of the newspaper industry. Perhaps in hopes of winning people over to the newspapers' side in the argument over how much Google should be profiting from their content, Dowd spends a lot of the article attempting to make the reader fear Google, trying to paint the company as anti-privacy and bent on "world domination."
But there is a vaguely ominous Big Brother wall in the lobby of the headquarters here that scrolls real-time Google searches -- porn queries are edited out -- from people around the world. You could probably see your own name if you stayed long enough. In one minute of watching, I saw the Washington association where my sister works, the Delaware beach town where my brother vacations, some Dave Matthews lyrics, calories Panera, females feet, soaps in depth and Douglas Mangum, whoever he is.
The uselessness of this statement is hard to overstate. If you stayed long enough you'd see your name? She saw the names of places where her sister works and her brother vacations? Ever look at a phone book or a map, Maureen? All she was seeing was evidence that people are looking for information.

And that is where Google adds value: it helps to connect people with the information they want. If Dowd would just pause the dramatics long enough, maybe she would recognize that this concept sounds very familiar. Just like newspapers have always done, Google tries to find information that its users want, and deliver it to them in a way that is useful -- and news stories are just one example of what people want Google to find for them. Dowd quotes Rupert Murdoch calling what Google does "stealing." But, Google is no more "stealing" the information to which it links than newspapers steal the events on which they report. It does not take much thinking to see the parallels. But hey, why take time to think when you can engage in some juicy fear-mongering and hyperbole?

Like many others, Dowd also makes the mistake of equating the decline of newspapers with the end of journalism, ignoring the evidence that says this is simply not true. We've already pointed out examples of how journalism can not only survive but thrive apart from physical newspapers. Newspapers were valuable when they were the most convenient, useful way to deliver the news. The content itself was always practically free. But the value of the content was used draw eyeballs to ads -- to give advertisers paid access to the community of readers. With the newspaper format now dying, entrepreneurs will find new ways to leverage the still-existent value of the free content to sell something scarce.

Fear-mongering, making misleading statements, ignoring evidence, not understanding your own business -- it's ironic that, while attempting to blame others for the woes of her own industry, Dowd makes so many of the mistakes that are really contributing to its decline.

Filed Under: blame, journalism, maureen dowd, newspapers
Companies: google

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  1. identicon
    Tom, 15 Apr 2009 @ 7:30pm

    Google is indeed Evil

    Look, I'm not fan of the old guard media industry comprising newspapers and TV networks; however, they do make a good point. Google and many other Web pioneers have leveraged the content of these old guard fossils in building their own brands and, consequently, they should PAY for the privilege. Google claims that Fair Use exceptions in U.S. Copyright law give them the right to extract "snippets" of information; however, anyone with an IQ over 90 should realize that this is a grossly inaccurate distortion of Fair Use. Fair Use was intended for primarily non-commercial applications such as education. Google is a commercial enterprise. They're using the snippets to drive traffic to their search portal.

    And there's the rub. Google wants all information to be free for purely selfish reasons. They don't care who else gets hurt in the process. You may not like the Associated Press or New York Times or whoever. But it takes real money to pay the reporters who collect information that you see in the news. No, and before you make the argument, the blogosphere is NOT NEWS. It is primarily about COMMENTARY. The little reporting that does take place is generally done by geekish people who will only go as far as their computers will let them go. If you want to know about Dan Rather's fudging of the purported National Guard papers that claim that Bush went AWOL, the geek bloggers are all over the the scans in Photoshop or MSPaint. Because looking at data that somebody else collected is the easy part. But, if you want them to report the details of a random murder or city hall corruption or police brutality or what's happening in Iraq, that's not going to come from the geek bloggers. They don't leave the comfort of their computer coccoons. That's what real reporters do.

    Google is trying to leverage supposedly philanthropic language ("the news should be free") to force the actual providers of content to give them a free ride. I'm sorry, but that's wrong. That's evil. Google can't whine and complain that the media needs to be "more innovative" while they're stealing the media's content. They need to either go get the information themselves -- or pay the content providers.

    But, no, that's not what Google wants to do. They'll put a battalion of lawyers on the case to fight off any attempt to get them to pay their fair share. And, along the way, they'll try to leverage every possible source of information -- credit reports, Web browsing metrics, medical records, books, magazines, Web content -- under the guise that the "information should be free." That's what Dowd is complaining about. There's a LOT of information that should NEVER be free. But, with Google, the company is getting so large and so powerful that we are going to have a tough time corking the bottle once the genie has left it...

    Wake up, people. Google really is evil. They don't care about you or me. They're simply in it for the buck. Anybody who thinks they're looking out for the greater good is kidding themselves.

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