The Independent asks whether Google News is killing-off newspaper journalism. (http://ping.fm/9pZzp), as Rupert Murdoch has been arguing.
Murdoch sees three evils preventing him from dominating the entire world (!) – 1) The BBC (see previous posts) 2) Freebie 'newspapers' and lastly, Google News.
The Independent also has concerns about Google – it states in the leader:
"Google and other websites make big money from the audiences they attract for their content, which is Hoovered up from countless news sources all around the world. The creators of that content, meanwhile, earn not a bean from such aggregators – they often do not even give their permission for it to be taken – and are unable to sell it for themselves online because it has already been made freely available."
Google, on the face of it, contribute nothing to supporting quality journalism. It employs no journalists, just a massive database which pinches headlines from newspaper websites and prioritizes them to form a news page. We have no idea what its news biases are. Editorial selections are based on some top-secret algorithm.
But it's wrong to suggest that Google's influence on journalism is entirely negative. What Google do, rather well, is direct shed loads of traffic to news sites, at least that's the general idea. Problems arise if Google allows its users to read entire stories on its own website rather than encouraging people to click-through.
Google's dominance of search (dare I say, 'near monopoly') which is the problem here. We live in a world where few people care to use Yahoo!, Bing (or Bling! or Blip! or Blah! – whatever it's called), Ask or AltaVista.
Newspaper sites can easily remove their content from Google. Or they could simply put it behind a 'pay wall'. But as The Independent newspaper knows from bitter experience, 'pay walls' simply don't work for general news.
So if 'pay walls' have failed and sites need lots of traffic to generate ad revenue - what then? Shouldn't they be paying Google to carry news headlines? I think that probably summarises the debate as it stands today.
In an ideal world, it would be better to see some competition in search aggregation. Perhaps we should all start to use UK-based NewsNow (http://ping.fm/ok1sE) instead.
Until then, newspapers can learn from Google in so far as audiences these days want news content which is tailored to their individual interests. That's why paying £2 for a Sunday newspaper, only to chuck half of its supplements away into the recycle bin, just seems seems a bit of an odd activity in 2009.