Google News? Not!

Today’s big news is that Google is not allowed to put out the news from a European news outlet that sued them. As usual, silicon insiders are 1) waxing argumentatively in favor of the virtuous wonder of Google and 2) forgetting the big picture which is *long term content control*. Here is the story, and here’s an example of the siliconized logic from TechDirt. Here’s Google’s view on the case.

Of course it’s probably stupid and shortsighted for the Belgian newspapers to insist Google remove them because they’ll lose reach and they’ll lose some potential for advertising revenues. This is especially true for an American audience that, without online exposure, is far more likely to encounter a Belgian waffle than a Belgian newpaper.

However, the news flash that Silicon Valley is always so reluctant to read is that Google’s spectacular success has not been primarily a function of *Google’s* own efforts, rather it has been their brilliance monetizing *other people’s content*. Google, as they themselves are fond of reminding us, does not do content. That’s fine and even appreciated by those of us who do do content. [Hmm – I said do do as in “Yes, I doo doo content” said Chico the Wonder Dog].

However the key question about content remains – how should content cash be divided between those who produce it, those who monetize it, and those who expose it to the world? Google can reasonable suggest that they are now doing much of the monetizing and the exposure and therefore deserve most of the cash. That fits well with the fact they are *getting* most of the cash. Google might also note that they are providing publishers with adsense program and then sharing about 70% of that revenue with the content producers themselves.

On the other hand, Belgium papers or other content providers can reasonably argue that when Google pulls up snips of their stuff and shows them in Google search results page, and the a user winds up clicking an advertisement at the side, the content folks don’t see a dime of that even though they were a key contributor to the Google profit equation.

Who is right? I say let the market decide.

8 thoughts on “Google News? Not!

  1. In the long run the market will indeed make the decisions but the stakeholders often want to impose some distortions on market forces.

    It is similar to simple mechanistic revisions in copyrighted compilations. Some copyrighted material may be available but underutilized. Someone else comes along and merely engages in a clerical reformatting and now has more valuable data, perhaps because he has presented it in alphabetical order or something. Does he deserve copyright protection or a value-added income stream? Is the quality of a search engine or atleast the reputation of a search engine an income stream that should be protected? A telephone directory is generally organized alphabetically but a google search results page is the result of more creative analysis. The ‘value added’ argument would give Google the right to analyze and present the data as they wished, with the initial creators of the data having nought but the right to pick up their marbles and go home empty handed.

    Publishing is changing. Free public access to data is often viewed as a threat to the journals who feel that their screening and peer-review process adds quality that should generate revenue. Many journals are now available for only brief periods of time and then place their entire issue into a fee-only archives.

  2. Pingback: No Brussels court love for Google over unauthorized news indexing » Make You Go Hmm

  3. Publishing is changing. Free public access to data is often viewed as a threat to the journals who feel that their screening and peer-review process adds quality

    Fools Gold – Several good points! I think more than at any time in history the concept of publishing is changing, stressing the importance of how information dances around the internet or other distribution mechanisms even more than the information itself. Copyright rules did not anticipate so much slicing and dicing of content or the fact that monetization of content would take so many new and different forms. It’ll be interesting to see how the courts and new laws carve up the info landscape.

  4. “Who is right? I say let the market decide.”

    That’s an excellent idea. Here’s Copiepresse’s position:

    “Margaret Boribon, secretary-general of Copiepresse, told Reuters she was pleased with Tuesday’s judgement…

    “She added that Copiepresse would still consider allowing Google to display extracts from the Belgian newspapers for a fee, although said it was up to Google to initiate contact.”


    In other words, Copiepresse would like Google to pay for the privilege of providing them with free advertising. They have correctly deduced that Google needs content providers to exist; however, Google will continue to do business happily without a handful of publishers, while the publishers stand to lose a lot of traffic. For this stunt to actually stand a chance of hurting Google, they would need to pull a coup.

    I recently read about a remarkably similar example of content providers trying to exploit content promoters—although the article doesn’t cite any sources, and I haven’t been able to find independent verification:

    “Here’s an illustrative story about what can happen when the content-industry tail tries to wag the dog. About 10-15 years ago, music companies told a bunch of NZ TV stations that they had to pay fees in order to screen music videos. The TV stations disagreed, saying that they were providing free advertising for the music companies, and if they didn’t like that then they’d simply stop playing music videos. So they stopped playing all music videos.

    “After a few weeks, cracks stated to appear as the music companies realised just how badly they needed the TV channels. One of the music companies bought an entire prime-time advertising block (at phenomenal cost, this wasn’t a single 30-second slot but every slot in an entire prime-time ad break) just to play one single new music video.

    “Shortly afterwards, music videos reappeared on TV. The details of the settlement were never made public, but I imagine it consisted of a bunch of music company execs on their knees begging the TV stations to start playing music videos again and let’s please never bring this matter up again.”

    Paul Gutmann on Vista Content Protection

    I would love to compare the log files for one of their websites from before and after this affair.

  5. The purpose of copyright law is to enhance the public domain by creating a temporary monopoly which will reward creators of that which eventually becomes part of the public domain. The problem is that various extensions of protection have made this benefit to the pubic domain rather illusory.

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