Column: whose content is it anyway?
Andrew Neil is not happy. The BBC broadcaster and former editor of The Sunday Times is the latest news executive to attack Google News, the aggregation service that collects stories from news sources around the world.
Neil opened the Society of Editors conference in
The Google News excuse is fast becoming a cliché in news circles, as newspaper revenues decline and executives cast around for someone to blame. In March journalists from The Times and the World Association of Newspapers used the Online Publishers Association to attack the service. Phillipe Janet, an online news executive with French newspaper Les Echos, said Google News should be banned form “stealing content and revenues from newspapers”.
One Belgian news organisation felt so strongly about the issue that when Google News launched its Belgian service they sued the company, saying "We are asking for Google to pay and seek our authorisation to use our content ... Google sells advertising and makes money on our content".
Now that’s not strictly true: Google News features no advertising. And when the Belgians won the case all they really won was the right not to be listed on Google. This is like suing WHSmiths for stocking your newspaper. I’ve never heard a better definition of ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’, and the newspaper website ad sales department must have been ringing with the sound of heads hitting desks.
Just as Andrew Neil bemoans the fact that newspapers don't charge Google News for their journalism, Google News could argue “We don’t charge them a penny for sending thousands of readers to their website”.
What newspapers should be doing, of course, is making a deal with Google which allows the search engine giant to start advertising alongside newspaper content, with newspapers taking a cut.
But while the dinosaurs lumber over the pennies, a limber Google is testing out fresh ideas every day that just keep fillings its coffers. And its latest plan? Acting as a broker for people to buy advertising space… in newspapers.
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