Journalist Demands Google Give Up Its 'Fair Share' To Newspapers

from the this-again? dept

I have to admit that it's been really kind of sad to watch journalists with little understanding of economics or business flail around blaming the likes of Craigslist and Google (especially Google) for their own failure in building better business models. The latest is a well-written, but poorly thought-out and argued, piece by Peter Osnos, the Vice-Chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review, suggesting reasons why Google needs to pay up its "fair share" to newspapers. There are numerous problems with the logic in the piece, but they can be summarized in two basic camps: a misunderstanding of the internet and a misunderstanding of economics.

The great thing, by the way, is that the comments on the article highlight pretty much every mistake that Osnos makes -- and, of course, as is oh-so-typical in these situations, Osnos does nothing at all to engage or respond to the comments that call out his mistakes. You want to know why newspapers are failing? It's not because of Google, it's because of this viewpoint that some journalists still hold that they're the masters of the truth, handing it out from on high, wanting nothing at all to do with the riff raff in the comments.

So, what's wrong specifically with the article? Well, he uses as his basis the idea that cable companies (and their subscribers, really) pay TV networks to be carried in cable packages, and suggests that Google should be doing the same thing -- paying newspapers as if they were networks. Of course, there are a few problems there. Television is a broadcast medium with a limit on what can be provided. The economics are entirely different than a communications medium with unlimited "space" for content. Suggesting the two are the same is simply wrong. The economics are entirely different. In one case, you have significant scarcities in terms of what gets "offered." That's not the case with the internet. Ignoring that destroys Osnos' entire argument.

Even more to the point, as one of the commenters to Osnos, Kimota, notes: "It's interesting that cable television was held up as a good example of how to extract subscription fees for content. The American Customer Satisfaction Index from the University of Michigan said in 2007 that cable and satellite TV suffered 'the lowest level of customer satisfaction among all industries covered.'" When your idea of how to save the newspaper business is to take a model mostly beloved by consumers and ask it to mimic a model almost universally hated... that's a problem, right?

The second big problem with Osnos' analysis is that he doesn't appear to understand how Google makes its money. He simply looks at the fact that it's making a ton of money, while newspapers are not, and assumes that Google's actions draw in the money that should have gone to newspapers (hence the "unfairness"). But as Scott Rosenberg notes in the comments again, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of how Google makes its money, which has little to nothing to do with news, but in targeted advertisements on transactional searches (searches where people are looking to buy something):
Google makes its money mostly from targeted advertising on product searches and other narrow, directed searches. The advertising on news-related searches is not nearly as valuable. Google could remove all newspapers and journalism content from its Web search catalog tomorrow and lose very little of its revenue. The links to news it provides are valuable to its users but not terribly valuable to its advertisers.
Finally, Osnos makes another big mistake, common among newspaper folks, that whoever breaks the news is obviously the most valuable source. Yet, as we were just discussing, being first doesn't always mean that you have the most useful information. Related to this, Osnos complains specifically about how Sports Illustrated broke a story, but Google News pointed more people to the Huffington Post coverage of that particular story, stating:
Most galling was that The Huffington Post's use of an Associated Press version of SI's report was initially tops on Google, which meant that it, and not, tended to be the place readers clicking through to get the gist of the breaking scandal would land.... Why did The Huffington Post come up ahead of Because, even Google insiders concede, Huffington is effective at implementing search optimization techniques, which means that its manipulation of keywords, search terms, and the dynamics of Web protocol give it an advantage over others scrambling to be the place readers are sent by search engines. What angered the people at Sports Illustrated and Time Inc. is that Google, acting as traffic conductor, seemed unmoved by their grievance over what had happened to their ownership of the story. An SI editor quoted to me Time Inc's editor-in-chief, John Huey, noting crisply that, "talking to Google is like trying to talk to a television."
This, of course, is a gross distortion of reality, and implies totally incorrectly that somehow the Huffington Post has some power over Google that could not replicate. The fact that Sports Illustrated and other publications have made bad decisions in optimizing their content isn't Google's fault. It's their own fault. Here, let me put this in terms that old "paper" folks might get: If more people go to my store than your store because I put a better ad in the Yellow pages, it's not the fault of the Yellow pages publisher. It's your fault for having a crappy ad. By doing a better job optimizing its content, the Huffington Post effectively better "advertised" itself to Google.

Of course, old school publications like Sports Illustrated could just as easily do the same thing themselves, but they haven't. On top of that, they could offer more useful features and services that attract more people such that they specifically seek out SI's coverage. But, instead, they treat the community the same way Osnos seems to: the riff raff can comment, but they aren't a part of the "real conversation" that occurs outside of the community.

Osnos wants fairness, but the system is amazingly fair. Much more fair than it ever was in the past, in fact. The problem isn't about "fairness." It's about Osnos being upset that in a level playing field pretty much everyone but the newspapers have figured out how to play the game better. What's fair is that the newspapers haven't been able to adjust and their revenue and readership is reflecting that.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:13am

    The question is though: What is Google without any content? Google ads are only useful when they are on pages that have relevant results that people want to see. Remove the news from external sources, and Google News would be a blank page. What good would that do? It wouldn't hurt the news sources, because in the end people will still want the news and will find it without Google, but it will hurt Google because they would have less search pages.

    Basically, if Google wants to use AP sourced material, they should pay in the same manner that newspapers do to use that material. The internet doesn't make them special.

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

  2. icon
    Bob (profile), 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:30am

    Umm well.

    As far as I can see, google doesn't embed full stories into their pages. And on the google news main page there aren't even any ads. If I search for news that would appear in my local paper, I also don't get links for ads on the result page. So this guy complaining that Google is getting rich on other people's content is way off. It seems to me that google is not monetizing their content, they are only sending them eyeballs.

    I think newspapers are just missing the boat by not monetizing the traffic properly. They are stuck in the "display ad" idea of making money and they make some. They all have the technology to see what search query brought people to their site. They could easily turn those search queries into money on their site by using google's ad tools.

    Oh never mind...talking to them is useless.

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

  3. icon
    m3mnoch (profile), 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:30am

    no links

    hrm. i just noticed -- osnos's article doesn't have a single link throughout.


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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:31am


    Except the Google News page doesn't make Google any significant money. It's product searches from the main Google site that give it its bread & butter. So, your point is moot, because Google without News would still be Google, but most of the news sites Google links to would see a huge drop in traffic.

    Google sends me to dozens of news sites around the country & the world. Each one of them has a unique opportunity to attract me into their community. Instead, your scenario would have every person go to their local or favorite news site, because I don't live in San Fran, so I never would have thought to go to sfgate to get news ... it'd be all DenverPost all the time ... and my life and perspective of the world would be remiss for it because of a lack of heterogeneous view points. I would probably go back to not bothering with the news at all ...

    So, I don't see how Google would hurt from losing news, but I can see how smaller news sites would suffer a drop in traffic ... though seeing as how they are totally clueless on how to do anything with the traffic they get, I'm sure none of them would notice.

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

  5. identicon
    the other AC, 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:32am


    Basically, if Google wants to use AP sourced material, they should pay in the same manner that newspapers do to use that material.

    Then we should make sure that AP paid for the content as well, and we've already established that they quite often forget to do so or even better, think that free stuff for them is fair and free stuff to others is not.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:33am

    No one pays google to carry their content. NO ONE. They pay google for the advertisements that direct people to a site, not the search results. Those links on the right side under the heading sponsored links, those are what people pay google for. More to the point, if the AP doesn't want their stories showing up on google, then I guess they don't want people to visit their site.

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

  7. icon
    Osno (profile), 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:40am

    It's interesting how I never once used Google to find Techdirt. I was referred here by a friend, and I mostly consume it via the RSS feed. So Google shouldn't be paying Techdirt for its content but it should be paying CJR?

    On the other hand, Osnos say: "Proceeds go instead to those who sell advertising and other services while aggregating and/or lifting material they did not create". Newspapers have always been an ad supported service, so I don't really see the difference.

    BTW, my nick is a play on the word "bear" in spanish. I didn't know about this Osnos guy until today.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:41am


    "Basically, if Google wants to use AP sourced material, they should pay in the same manner that newspapers do to use that material. The internet doesn't make them special."

    Google already established that they don't care if newspapers show up on their search engines. If the newspapers don't want to show up on their search engines all they have to do is opt out. They have two options

    Option one: use a robots.txt file. They refused to do so (so arguing such a file doesn't always work with no evidence to support such a claim is useless).

    Option two: ask google to remove them. I'm sure google will be more than glad to remove them upon request, as they have already indicated that they don't mind removing them if asked to by a robots.txt file.

    But you can't FORCE someone to use your service and then force them to pay for it. That's extortion.

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

  9. icon
    Osno (profile), 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:42am

    It's also weird that he wants "An ecosystem in which all stakeholders in the content economy have a fair share". Let's discuss blogging, then.

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

  10. identicon
    Tom Utley, 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:46am

    This is why our economy sucks

    Any time people fail, they cry foul to the government to bail them out.

    "It's not right for Google to be such a success, they need to pay for us! they can afford it!"

    "It's not right for rich people to be able to keep their money! They need to pay their fair share!"

    "It's not right for oil companies to make money selling an essential product to Americans! We need to seize their profits!"

    We need to remove the government from our economy and limit it to only protecting our rights to life, liberty, and private property. This would protect against theft, fraud, breach of contract, etc, and would allow our economy to work the way it is supposed to: work hard, earn rewards. Right now our government works like this: buy a politician, receive stolen money.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:52am

    Kind of surprised...

    I was wondering whether Mike would point out that Google is nothing more than a giant electronic card index file. Yes, far more sophisticated, and useful, than card indexes, but still, just an index. Yes, the 3 x 5 cards have advertising associated with them, yes, the 3 x 5 cards are filed in a way the prioritizes search results (as opposed to digging through drawer after drawer of card files without the help of prioritization), but Google remains an index. How does a 3 x 5 index take away from, for example, the Science Scitation Index, or an encyclopedia, which is in its own way an index? Of course, it does not.

    Newspapers, magazines and other sources of information remain useful, and potentially valuable, to Google. Google provides increased chances for customers to find those sources of information rather than a siphon for money that "would" have gone to the magazine, newspaper, etc., just like 3 x 5 cards lead you to a reference, but take nothing away from the reference. Realign your reality.

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

  12. identicon
    Bettawrekonize, 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:52am

    Re: This is why our economy sucks


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

  13. icon
    Designerfx (profile), 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:53am

    Re: Re:

    Yup. If we didn't have google news we simply wouldn't know about a ton of news that is easily searched by them/from them/to them.

    So the concept of "what can you make from free?" = a business. I guess people don't understand that many industries can be expanded through efficiencies like this. I suspect that more news is watched since google began aggregating than before that, for certain. Likewise pre-internet and pre-tv and pre-radio.

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

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 11:58am

    HuffPo is an AP licensee

    It was an AP article available for syndication on any site that pays licensing fees. Even if you assumed "hot news" could apply here, the only one "misappropriating" this stuff is the champion of the "hot news" doctrine... Associated Press themselves.

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's analogous to the idea that Washing Machines & Dryers make washing clothes EASIER and FASTER.

    Yet, people spend MORE TIME washing clothes now than they did a hundred years ago.

    Because a hundred years ago, it was so much work and effort to wash clothes, that people simply wore their clothes dirty for longer periods of time until someone (mom!) finally went down to the river. So, saving time and effort has actually let to an INCREASE in time and effort, but also everyone wears clean(er) clothes most of the time.

    I read more news from more sources now, since it's so easy to find news that I'm interested in. And since I don't have to be locked into a limited local supply that may or may not be able to meet my needs, I can get the same story from a number of different perspectives from around the world. So, I spend MORE time reading MORE news from MORE places.

    And yet, they can't seem to figure out what to do with all this. Google is delivering me to these news sites. It's their failure to turn me into money ... Google just showed me who had the information I was looking for.

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Kind of surprised...

    Again, Google doesn't care if someone doesn't want to index them, so google doesn't have to agree to pay these sources to index them. If a source doesn't want to be indexed it can simply opt out with a robots.txt file or they can probably ask Google to opt out and I'm sure google will be more than glad to opt them out. But you can't FORCE someone to use your service and then force them to pay. Again, that's extortion.

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

  17. identicon
    just this guy, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:03pm

    From the orginal

    "is absurd when the referral mechanism makes a fortune and the creators get scraps."

    That sounds like the music industry and publishing industry, they made fortunes while the writers and musicians (creators) got scraps.

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

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:03pm



    Google already pays to host AP articles on the news portion. No one is contesting that on either side of the debate.

    These morons want Google to pay just to link to people.

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

  19. identicon
    CameronRex, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:14pm


    Eventually we will see what Google is without content because the newspapers are going out of business and there won't be anything for Google to link to. I keep waiting for someone to explain this new business model that newspapers - with large numbers of reporters and editors and support staff - are supposed to use to make money. So many people now believe they should have access to content for free, but the content is not actually free. Someone, currently newspapers, has to pay for it. Where will the content come from when newspapers are no longer around?

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

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Re:

    Good content comes from techdirt, for one.

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

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:21pm


    What is the content without a means to find it?

    I refuse to sit back and consume the news that traditional media push towards us. I want to interact with news that I'm interested in.

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

  22. icon
    nonlinear (profile), 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:23pm

    trackrights, instead?

    right now google is positioning google reader to compete with twitter and facebook. using content it doesn't own.
    i understand copyright is dead in a digital society, but I'd appreciate if I can keep track of visitors of my own content. google keeps this metadata (central to its business model), but it doesn't share. that's unfair.

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

  23. icon
    Josh (profile), 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:23pm

    Anonymous from yesterday outed?

    Things that make me go Hmmmm: article here about story on techcrunch from yesterday written by anonymous person, from a well known executive from a large site on the net.

    Yesterday the anonymous post was calling for transparency in Google's search engine, specifically in regards to SEO. It seems like the anger expressed by is because HuffingtonPost beat them out of the traffic generated by their 'scoop' because Huffington had better SEO.

    I think it would be fair to say that could fit into the category of a large internet site.

    Anyone else thinking these stories are related? How about some "amatuers" do some investigative journalism and track down a link?

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

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re:

    "Where will the content come from when newspapers are no longer around?"

    The same place news comes from now. People who do things that are worth talking about.

    Newspapers don't make content. They write about other people doing interesting things. There will always be people willing to write about other people doing interesting things ...

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

  25. identicon
    AC, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:35pm

    This is sort of akin to if a physical newspaper was about to load up its trucks in the early morning and send them out on their paper run, when somebody else came along with a bunch of trucks of their own and offered to take it to customers for free, saving the newspaper the costs associated with distribution.

    All these industries are just struggling with the concept of reduced scarcity and inefficiency. If you start at the beginning, there is no economy or system of bartering. Unfortunately, we do not have infinite resources for everybody, which would be a good thing as everybody would get what they wanted for free; since there are significant costs associated with obtaining any one resource, however, various entities are forced to focus on a single resource and then trade that for currency to buy other resources from other providers.

    With internet communication, digital file sharing, open source collaboration, etc. there is far less inefficiency than there used to be. The industries that made a bundle in the past are going to make less with their old models because certain elements of their service--or the entire service, if they're unlucky--no longer contain the same inherent barriers to entry, either because they are cheaper and easier to provide, or flat out infinitely available as in the case of sharing media.

    This is a good thing; we are eliminating the very thing that necessitated paying somebody else to provide services for us in the first place. Somewhere along the way, though, a lot of us forgot that the economy does not exist to provide people with money, but to provide individual citizens with the necessary goods and services as cheaply and efficiently as possible. By constructing articial barriers to communication, reproduction, and distribution of news, music, software, etc. we are fighting against the very thing that a currency system serves to provide.

    This is not a matter of protecting private property; an individual instance of a news article no more belongs to the author than does the memory of the article in a man's head whom has read it. A copy of a song is no more the property of the musician that sang it than is the sound of a man whistling its tune as he replays it in his mind. We have unfortunately defined intellectual property in ways counterintuitive to our original concept of 'property'--that which requires a marginal effort and/or exclusivity to obtain and keep.

    The only scarcity within is the artisitic creativity and overhead to construct the original work. This is not being infringed upon by sharing it; rather, it brings attention and awareness to the public of its existence, allowing the artist to leverage that into other means of compensation for his generosity to share. In many cases, fame and recognition are sufficient motivation in themselves, but the abundance of individuality in the world crossed with the small to nonexistant cost of distribution means that we will have no shortage of creators willing to produce and share in the future. However, society has no obligation to provide them with a living since the individual fruits of their labor no longer reduce the scarcity or cost to us in obtaining objects of their nature.

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

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Anonymous from yesterday outed?

    formal reporters are just going to get a whole ton of "no comment" responses... which is no better than the lack of story some bloggers are going to get.

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

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:50pm


    At AC #1:

    You seem to misunderstand the problem. Google is NOT presenting this information as their own like a Newspaper does. They have an aggregator that gives a brief synopsis and links back to the AP story. It is essentially free advertisement for the original story.

    Google's bots do not read the content they grab. They just grab anything that doesn't tell them no. As in the wonderful blog post by Google's PR department and thousands of tech savvy web masters have been saying since day one of these complaints, the AP has one real option that has been part of the Internet for decades:


    This file will prevent them from being scraped by Google. Unless you are saying that its "unfair" for the AP not to show up in search results by Google. In which case your hippocracy is staggering, as the AP should then be paying Google for driving traffic to them.

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

  28. icon
    astontechno (profile), 16 Jul 2009 @ 12:51pm

    save the trees don't buy a paper everyday google everyday

    papers have their nostalgic quality just like a box of

    good n plenty.

    let's put this in perspective for a moment.

    i met the daughter of my next door neighbor the other

    day for the first time. while rattling off at supersonic

    speed her bio and how she missed her home town, she was

    texting someone that she just met a guy and was meeting him

    for the first time and she still had time to google map

    the location of her next meeting. newspapers ? you gotta

    be kidding........who has time to read the rags anymore?

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

  29. identicon
    epc, 16 Jul 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Google should remove papers, let them opt-in to the index

    More and more I’m convinced that Google should simply purge newspapers from the index. If papers and other media want to show up in Google's search results, or on Google News, then let them opt-in. No charge. But no free ride either.

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

  30. identicon
    Trails, 16 Jul 2009 @ 1:06pm


    "What good would that do? It wouldn't hurt the news sources, because in the end people will still want the news and will find it without Google"

    Using what? A divining rod?

    Without google, the only option is other search engines or aggregators, i.e. others that do what google does, but with less market share.

    Further, your assertion that it wouldn't hurt the news sources is ridiciulous. As pointed out in previous stories, newspapers are welcome to block google and other engines via robots.txt if they think they're getting a bum deal. So why aren't they blocking the googles of the world?

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

  31. identicon
    Trails, 16 Jul 2009 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Google should remove papers, let them opt-in to the index

    They already can opt-out, using robots.txt. They choose not to.

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

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 1:21pm

    Google is the company that tries to wedge itself between every transaction (sale or webpage view), attempting to profit from the transaction. What google does is rather than provide a guide to news sites, it uses the news sites content (headline and first few words) to guide people to multiple websites. But what that does in effect is create more page views for Google, effectively wedging themselves between the surfer and the news they really want.


    Now, this page may or may not have any ads on it when you view it, but the potential is there (it's in the format). Thus, Google rather than just giving links to news sites, actually presents the news. In today's headline oriented news world, this page might be enough to satisfy people. Example:

    If I wanted the DJIA close for today, I could get that info and never leave the page, effectively making Google my news source, and not the business news site they lifted the data from.

    Basically, the newspapers should be able to be indexed (as searchable in normal search) without be sorted out into newspapers and displayed differently. Newspapers and news sources should be asked to opt into the extra service (the news sorting) which may not be to their liking.

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

  33. identicon
    sfoeuroflyer, 16 Jul 2009 @ 1:29pm

    Fair share

    Yup. Happens every time. "Fair share" means that someone else pays for you. The mentality behind the argument is revolting.

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

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 1:37pm


    Are you trying to be clueless, or is it just natural?

    Google exists solely because people cannot go from "A" to "C". You're trying to argue that if Google didn't exist, people would go straight to the news. Guess what: the only people who go through Google are the ones that CAN'T go straight to the news.

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

  35. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re:

    1) Google wasn't built on newspaper indexing. If Google News becomes useless...they'll cancel the service. And no one will care.

    2) The content is already free. Why anyone would pay for a newspaper nowadays is beyond me.

    3) So when newspapers stop running, time suddenly freezes and nothing happens?

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

  36. icon
    res2 (profile), 16 Jul 2009 @ 1:57pm

    Re: trackrights, instead?

    You are kidding right? There are many tools available that will allow you to do exactly that, including the free Google Analytics. Talk to who ever maintains your website, they should be able to provide you with several options that will fit your budget and needs.

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

  37. identicon
    AC, 16 Jul 2009 @ 2:25pm

    Free Market Research

    I really wonder if anyone is doing any market research any more. Or perhaps all those positions were the first to get cut?

    Here's some free market research (on the Internet, for anyone to read!):

    * People want what they want, when and where they want it
    And it follows that:
    * People will pay more, or put up with some inconvenience if overall it appears that they are getting more of what they want, when and where they want it.
    * people are smart enough to know when it is technologically possible for them to read/watch/listen to what they want, right here, right now and get REALLY annoyed by anything that gets in the way.

    example: I would pay someone a fair bit more for an ice-cream cone if they were standing by my desk with a waffle cone with a couple of scoops of coffee ice cream, right now. I might also be willing to put up with a brief advertisement AND pay (more) money for it. It all depends how it compares (to me) to the walk/drive that would be necessary to get that ice cream cone that I want right here, right now.

    At least with ice cream, I know it is not technologically feasible to have someone standing by with a waffle cone machine and a freezer full of all possible ice cream flavors unless I decide to work at an ice cream store. So I certainly don't turn to forcing someone to stand by with ice cream for me - that would be crazy!

    But it sure is easy, and it doesn't seem to hurt anyone much if I go read a copy of a paywalled-off NYT article on Scribed. That I was completely willing to pay for! Or watch ads for. I just have no WAY to pay for it. micropayments? trying my luck at the newsstand at the end of the day?

    This plays out quite simply when it comes to content:
    * people want to read/watch/listen to what they want to read/watch/listen to right here, right now.
    * they get annoyed when it is technologically possible (beyond possible - CHEAP and EASY). Annoyed enough to do copyright infringement en-masse.

    Technology has been agressively working to provide this, and on the whole as people buy technology, they select technology that enables this.

    It can be wildly more bandwidth efficient to broadcast:
    * putting the identical newspaper on every doorstep
    * broadcasting the same content over the airwaves or cable

    But that doesn't get people what they want very effectively. So tech has evolved steadily away from broadcast and all the signs indicate that it will continue to do so in spite of any efforts to stop it.

    The market winners will be the content creators that most effectively provide customers what they want, when and where they want it AND figure out a way to monetize it - by making more money from the customer than it costs to create the content.

    * mp3 players win out over CDs - even though the sound quality is lower, people would FAR rather have a huge selection with them wherever they are than have higher quality. This way they can listen to what they want, when and where they want it.
    * cell phones with mp3 capability win out over standalone mp3 players. Because people want to be able to talk to who they want, when and where they want AND listen to the music they want when and where they want. Even though there are additional usability sacrifices by combining functions!
    * delivery of media over the Internet (audio, video and written) wins over broadcast (newspaper, bulk shipment of CDs to your local store, TV) - particularly because now the Internet means access to it wherever you have one of:
    * broadband
    * access to a broadband connection via wifi
    * pseudo-broadband via the cell network
    and the pathways to broadband anywhere, any time are constantly increasing.

    The articles example of Cable TV actually does highlight a possible business model. It chafes customers to pay 77c/month for Fox news when they don't watch it. But at least that cost is relatively small, and they don't have to watch the commercials between Fox News when they don't watch it. I actually seriously doubt that 77c/month is the source of the great dissatisfaction with the cable industry. Perhaps all of the other channels that a given customer doesn't care about added together are.
    However, I think points to a possible business model for these newspapers.

    If we accept that micropayments don't work - and we have yet to see a model that does work, that leaves content subscriptions and advertising (so far). Would customers be willing to pay say $10/month for access to ALL professional news via their media of choice (additional fees for paper obviously)? Then they'd be paying fractions of cents for all those articles they don't care about, but the $10/month would be worthwhile for the few that they do care about. And as long as they could get them when and where they want with minimal hassle. Maybe. And if the getting it when/where they want was easy enough, they'd probably even put up with some ads.

    I think it has been proven quite solidly at this point though, that customers are NOT willing to pay a subscription fee for access to just a single publication though. It is just too much of a hassle. What happens when the customer has a subscription to WSJ and notices an article from NYT that they really want to read? They can't micropay for it. Heck - even if they discover it, and try to revert to the broadcast model (newsstand) they might be out of luck by the time they get there. They sure don't want to subscribe for a month (online) just to get that one article. But there's not technology reason they couldn't 'just see' that article - it's trivial to host a copy online.

    But that WOULD require those professional content creators to THINK about their business model, and make a serious modification to it. For example cooperation across the entire industry. That's pretty radical innovation.

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

  38. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 2:42pm

    This part sounds correct:
    "talking to Google is like trying to talk to a television"

    Not that they needed to talk to Google in this case but
    Google really sucks at responding to anyone for any reason.

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

  39. identicon
    Ryan, 16 Jul 2009 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Free Market Research

    I don't see a paywall working ever. Perhaps premium content can be offered as a modest addendum to revenue, but the market for news has become near-perfectly competitive. The established providers may have more direct access to certain sources at present, and big-name journalists can draw a crowd, but anybody with news can spread it around the world in no time and anybody with something to say can comment on it. Even if you got every major media provider to agree to a standard paywall--very, very fat chance--somebody else would just come along and take the majority of the audience.

    Frankly, I think cooperation among certain rivals would just lead to the downfall of both as somebody else came along to compete. The great thing about competition, and about the new era of internet communication and collaboration, is that the overhead needed to create a great news service is much, much smaller. I think advertising and access to the audience is the key as opposed to a paywall, and the providers that allow the greatest access and hold down their costs are the ones that will succeed the best.

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

  40. identicon
    JEDIDIAH, 16 Jul 2009 @ 8:12pm

    Re: Re:

    Newspapers were dying long before Google. They were killed
    by beancounters from conglomerates that don't give a d*mn
    about journalism. They are like A&R men that over-exploit
    a musical genre until "death before disco" is a rallying
    cry. Newspapers first need to sort out their own primary
    reason for existing before fixating on anything else.

    There is no threat that Google will prevent the emergence
    of the next "Woodward & Bernstein" since the corporatization
    of news has already done that.

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

  41. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2009 @ 9:32pm


    Or they can just opt out or ask google to opt them out. It's a simple thing to do.

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

  42. identicon
    Christopher Dorobek, 17 Jul 2009 @ 4:30am

    Newspapers are between biz models

    As a journalist, this is a VERY difficult time -- it is hard to see many newspapers teetering. But blaming Google is just specious. Any newspaper can make their pages un-Googleable. It isn't all that difficult, unfortunately. Unfortunately they get traffic -- and generate revenue -- from those the traffic... generated by Google.

    Speaking as a journalist, it was a marvelous time when we got to tell people what the news was, what time people would get it, in what form. But we are between business models. The absolutely amazing 20th century process of putting out a daily newspaper -- and it is remarkable that it happens each and every day... the news gathering, putting it together, printing it and distributing it to a wide region -- is amazing. But times have changed.

    I agree -- most publications don't want to have to deal with comments -- even on their own pages. They see bloggers as outsiders. They still have the notion that they have control.

    If I have a concern, it is who will do the big investigative stories -- the stories like the still remarkable series the WP did on Walter Reed and the treatment of vets? Who is going to cover the war in Iraq? It simply does take unique skills -- and money. We'll always know everything there is to know about Michael Jackson, but who will cover the stories that really make a difference in our lives? That question is still unanswered.

    That being said, I know we'll figure it all out. But as journalists and publishers, it wastes time wishing that this Internet thing wasn't around. It is... and it isn't going away. It is a new era. Stop blaming Google -- or anybody else -- and let's figure out a new business model.

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

  43. identicon
    Free Capitalist, 17 Jul 2009 @ 10:50am

    Internet Bites Obsolete Journalist

    The links to news it provides are valuable to its users but not terribly valuable to its advertisers.

    Value to the users is exactly what drives questors to search engines. Old-News would do well to drop the long-dead concept of reader ownership that came from the 'one or two newspapers per market monopoly' era that preceeded the 1980s.

    People have choices these days, and those who want to be informed exercise those choices. If newspapers want to increase their ad-revenue share in the open market of ideas, they might consider diversifying their content- especially in idealogical slant. Offering a more diverse, well crafted product line creates value. And it is value that newspapers, and many journalists, like this Osnos guy in TFA, fail to deliver in measurable amounts compared to what else is available.

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

  44. identicon
    Trails, 17 Jul 2009 @ 11:33am

    Re: Brilliant!!

    Yes excellent idea.

    Of course, then we'd need something to find stuff. Like a "finding engine".

    And you know what would be handy? A tool to pull together info from all the different sites so you don't have to check each one...

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

  45. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jul 2009 @ 1:31pm

    "So, what's wrong specifically with the article? Well, he uses as his basis the idea that cable companies (and their subscribers, really) pay TV networks to be carried in cable packages, and suggests that Google should be doing the same thing -- paying newspapers as if they were networks."

    Um, if this is one of this guy's arguments, that's pretty retarded. I hadn't thought about it that way, but he's got a really good point. The news sites SHOULD be paying Google to be carried in their "network package".

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

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