Publishers aren't fond of the idea of not having Google News to send them traffic, it would seem. Who knew? Last week, Google announced it would shut down Google News in Spain on December 16. The day is here, and as of the time of this writing, the site is operational, but it may be gone soon. The company's hand was forced by legislation in that country requiring news aggregation services like Google News to pay publishers for using small snippets of content.
Should Google be forced to pay publishers or shut down Google News? Do you agree with this law? Should it be implemented in other countries? Should publishers just be grateful for the traffic they get? Share your thoughts on the issue in the comments.
The law is similar to one in Germany that ensured publishers could charge services like Google for doing just that, but the difference with the Spanish law is that publishers actually have to charge.
You see, when the scenario played out in Germany, publishers eventually caved, coming to the realization that they actually relied on that Google traffic. Google wasn't going to pay them for snippets, so it just wouldn't index those who wanted to charge. Minds were changed.
Minds have also changed in Spain, but given the different nature of the law, a reversal might not be as easy. The Spanish Report reports that the Spanish Newspaper Publishers’ Association (AEDE) wants the Spanish government and EU competition authorities to stop Google from closing Google News. The publication writes:
The Spanish Newspaper Publishers’ Association (AEDE) issued a statement last night saying that Google News was “not just the closure of another service given its dominant market position”, recognising that Google’s decision: “will undoubtedly have a negative impact on citizens and Spanish businesses”.
“Given the dominant position of Google (which in Spain controls almost all of the searches in the market and is an authentic gateway to the Internet), AEDE requires the intervention of Spanish and community authorities, and competition authorities, to effectively protect the rights of citizens and companies”.
Keep in mind, this is the group that lobbied the government for such a law in the first place. Apparently they didn't expect Google to actually pull the plug. Now they seem to be panicking.
Last week, Richard Gingras, Head of Google News, said:
As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable. So it’s with real sadness that on 16 December (before the new law comes into effect in January) we’ll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain.
For centuries publishers were limited in how widely they could distribute the printed page. The Internet changed all that — creating tremendous opportunities but also real challenges for publishers as competition both for readers’ attention and for advertising Euros increased. We’re committed to helping the news industry meet that challenge and look forward to continuing to work with our thousands of partners globally, as well as in Spain, to help them increase their online readership and revenues.
We've yet to see any comment from Google in light of this new news, and it remains to be seen if the government will indeed intervene again to keep Google News alive in the country.
Currently, Google News is still operational from Google.es. If you go to the main Google News page, it presents the user with Google's message about shutting down, but if you perform a regular Google search that lends itself to news, you still get news results within the regular search results, and can click through to the Spanish version of Google News like normal (h/t: Greg Sterling). This is likely how most people use the service as it is.
This could very well go away soon, but we have to wonder if Google is in talks with the government in light of the publisher group's recent comments. After all, they would be the beneficiaries of the law, so the law has little reason for existing if it doesn't cater to those it's supposed to protect.
Do you think Google News will ultimately remain in operation in Spain, or do you expect it to actually be gone for good? Let us know in the comments.
Images via Google