Papers Get It Wrong About Google

    April 10, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

It’s newspaper billionaire versus tech billionaires as the man who would buy the Tribune Company (and dump the Cubs as soon as possible) tells the newspaper industry that Google rips off their content.

Papers Get It Wrong About Google
Papers Get It Wrong About Google
Who Can Compete with Google?

Some people are never happy. Google is paying AP, AFP, and other organizations for the right to do online what anyone else can do under fair use: cite a short extract of content from another source.

Count tycoon Sam Zell among them. He’s the embodiment of the old saw, “money can’t buy happiness.” As Techdirt noted, Zell has been complaining about Google’s indexing practices for Google News. Somehow making people aware of coverage of a story and providing a link to the full article is wrong in ZellWorld.

One Techdirt commenter suggested Zell would rather ruin what Google News does for every newspaper it covers if he doesn’t get a piece of the action. Some might construe that as calling Zell greedy. Zell probably sees it as good business and has the billions to make his point.

The funny part about Zell’s rant is where he delivered it. He made his speech at Stanford University, which as Google followers know is where the search engine had its beginnings.

Robert Niles at the Annenberg Online Journalism Review wrote about Zell’s chat. He followed that by picking up on some observations by the people who should be the most affected by Google News’ alleged thievery, the managers of various newspaper websites.

There is sentiment in favor of the traffic search engines drive to those sites. The Washington Post’s James Brady, probably one of the highest profile online newspaper executive editors, said that Google News is a rival as a starting point for readers.

He also acknowledged the volume of visitors Google sends to the Post. While Brady thinks there will be more talks between the search engine and newspapers, he said, “I don’t think having news organizations demonizing Google makes a lot of sense.”

Google doesn’t directly monetize Google News with ads. The argument has been made that they drive so much traffic to newspapers that they get the opportunity to sell them on AdSense, which by Google’s financials pays the majority of money made from those clicks back to the site publishers.

So let’s test the theory. Let’s suggest to Google that they shut down Google News for three months. That will drop Google News links to newspapers from appearing atop Google SERPs as well. Then the Zells and other publishers can see where everybody stands on the question of making money from search traffic.

If the papers fare well without Google, maybe that signals the opportunity for more AFP and AP-like deals since they don’t need Google’s traffic. If the dropoff has a notable and significant impact, then maybe the Tribune Company and others will see in red ink just what fair use means to them in the 21st Century.