German Publishers Go After Google; Apparently Very Confused About How The Internet Works

from the welcome-to-online dept

It looks like Germany may be a new front in clueless attacks on Google. With newspapers and magazines admitting that they're too clueless to know what to do with traffic Google sends them, officials in Germany are opening an antitrust investigation into Google based on some of the most ridiculous logic we've heard to date:
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.
Okay. Let's pick apart this apples and oranges comparison. First off, Google earns 1.2 billion euros from search advertising which has almost nothing to do with news. It comes from people searching for cameras or cribs or cars. Google News had no advertising at all for most of its existence and only introduced ads in the US less than a year ago. In other words, no, Google is not making more than newspapers and magazines when it comes to its News site in Germany.

And, even if Google was making more money (which, again, there's no evidence that this is true), that still doesn't excuse Fuhrmann's claims -- which basically amount to him admitting that Google figured out how to make money and the companies he represents did not. Yet the publishers he represents had all of the advantages in the world. They were local. Google was not. They had been around for many more years than Google. They had brand recognition and loyalty that Google did not. Furhmann is basically admitting what a colossal failure the companies he represents have been. They failed to capitalize on a huge opportunity. And now, when Google sends them traffic, they are still failing to use that traffic wisely. And then they blame Google for it? Wow.
The publishers also complained about what they saw as a lack of transparency in the way Google presents search results and news snippets in its Google News service, saying the company was manipulating the results to help maintain its strong position....

"We often feel like Web sites are elevated in Google's search results if they have a strong business relationship with Google, and we think we can prove it," Mr. Fuhrmann said.
So go ahead and prove it. First of all, Google is a private company and can rank sites however it wants. It's an opinion of what Google feels is most relevant. If Google was not doing a good job, then people would go away. So basically, at this point, Fuhrmann hasn't just admitted that the publishers he represents have failed miserably to set up even the most basic business models for adapting to the internet, he's now suggesting that Google is purposely handicapping its own site by not presenting the absolute best results!

It's difficult to see how this makes any sense at all. The publishers are claiming that Google is purposely degrading its results (and they can prove it!) and at the same time complaining that they can't compete against those degraded results. Wow.

On top of all that, the article reminds us, as we discussed last year, that these publishers have convinced German Chancellor Angela Merkel to support a new copyright law that would force aggregators to pay up just to link to stories. It's as if Germany doesn't want the internet at all.

Filed Under: business models, germany, internet, newspapers, publishers
Companies: google


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  1. identicon
    _Flin_, 21 Jan 2010 @ 6:55am

    It is sad

    This is just the level of incompetence concerning the internet one meets in Germany. And has done so since the existence of the net.

    - 15 years ago my Marketing Professor said: "Internet? Online Marketing? Bah, thats just the same as mail order business".
    - The newspapers say now and always have: "Internet? Bah, nothing can challenge the newspaper. We have quality journalism and noone wants to read on a screen anyway. How do you read on a screen at breakfast? Hah!"
    - 2 Newspapers just started to use pay-for-content models. They let their readers pay for content, but if you come from Google, the content is free
    - Biggest owner for classifieds in Germany is now Provider Deutsche Telekom, not the Publishers

    Bad thing is: This is what politicians are reading and basing their decisions on. We have a chasm of knowledge over here between digital natives and decision makers. Not even mentioning jurisdiction. Old guys and gals making and using old laws for a new world. One could talk for hours about stupidity and the internet in Germany.

    Only that the snootiness that everyone is so cool and irreplaceable has turned to pure fear and aggressive lobbying to keep sun orbiting the flat world.

    Which is really rather sad, when you think about it.

    Number of influential german internet companies: 0

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