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Google- From “No Evil” to a “Vampire” for Publishers!

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It all started with one mission for Google “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” and the motto “Don’t be Evil”.

In short, they always wanted to provide all of world’s information at fingertips and that too for Free! But then who cares about such mission statements and mottos of any company.

But Google is probably one of those chosen companies which is almost able to deliver what it had promised! And in achieving this it has become huge- in fact “God-like”.

Google was fortunate enough to devise a business model which would serve the whole Internet Industry like never before, but still the information it provides has always been “Free”.

wall-street-journal-logo

It was one Indian who started the idea of organizing World’s news at tips- Krishna Bhagat. Google news started way back in 2001 and today it serves around 4 billion clicks/month to other news related websites. Although, Google news doesn’t fetch full news stories from other websites (more than 25k in number) still it poses some serious threats to publishers.

The recent face-off between Rupert Murdoch of WSJ and Google news is a clear indication that publishers around the world are terrified because of Google news, which is allegedly eating up their advertising/subscription revenues.

But then Google has its own explanations- “Don’t Shoot The Gift Horse That Feeds You” they said in answer to Murdoch’s declaration of limiting Google bots from crawling their website.

Who is fair here?

Well it’s a difficult answer to find. On one hand Google is internet king and you can’t live on Internet without Google, on the other we have news publishers who want to save Journalism. Let’s understand both the sides and then decide who is correct-

In a recent debate at the World Newspaper Congress, Hyderabad this is what David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel, Google had pointed out: [Source]

  • Newspaper Industry can’t cope with the technology part of Internet. They can only provide good news, but can’t enhance user experience. On the other hand Google continuously innovates new technologies that would make online reading simple and fast. Google would provide all this for free, so when it comes to generating money it has rights to do so by showing relevant advertisements.
  • As per Google, it’s the technological advancement which is eating up newspaper subscriptions and not “Google”. “It was the arrival of radio and television that started the decline of newspaper circulation. Afternoon newspapers were the first casualties. And then the advent of 24-hour news turned what was in the morning papers into – literally – old news”- David said. Think of Twitter today and and you would understand that it’s now changed to “every-second news”.
  • Advertisers are becoming more and more demanding. They want their ads to reach only to the targeted audience and they don’t pay for general impressions. Ads over newspapers are hence seeing a decline (especially in US).
  • For publishers, “Google offers a source of promotion undreamt of just a few years ago. We send online news publishers of all types a billion clicks a month from Google News and more than 3 billion additional visits from Search and other Google services. That’s about 100,000 business opportunities – to serve ads or offer subscriptions – every minute. And we don’t charge anything for that”.
  • This point is interesting, David said-“the suggestion that we’re making big profits on the back of newspapers misrepresents the reality. Millions of people use Google because they’re searching for information. The fact that they’re actively looking for something specific is, of course, very valuable to advertisers. So when someone searches for, say, [Hyderabad restaurants], it indicates the consumer is in the mood to buy, so advertisers are willing to pay to have their ads appear alongside those search results. But think about a typical news query. Search terms like [Afghanistan surge] aren’t as appealing to advertisers as ones for products and services. So the truth is that the revenue we generate from the ads shown alongside News queries is only a tiny fraction of our overall search revenues”.

But Rupert want things to change. He wants to block Google from crawling any story published on WSJ.com, and more than this he wants other publications too to join hands. This off course will not make any sense for other publishers as they are not as big as WSJ to be able to survive without Google. This is like taking a step in haste without properly analyzing the outcome. Google News will not be affected much, as there are thousand other publishers who will continue to use it, as it serves them their daily bread.

Murdoch has probably taken a wrong step! A popular saying in Hindi describes this as “Don’t be hostile to Croc if you want to survive in water”. Newspaper subscription is going to die anyways, but if they want to survive on Internet they need to be friends with “Google”.

Whats your take on this ?

  1. […] is losing the battle to digital media.It is clearly evident from the recent face-off between Mr.Rupert Mudroch and Google over Google’s oh-so useful product Google […]

  2. Madhav Shivpuri says

    Vishal, I don’t agree with you that information should not be free. I would rather say that certain information can be free while certain other class can be paid. Think about 2 examples:
    1. Brick and mortar example: You want to go from point A to point B. So you go the bus stop and check out the bus routes that take you there, and the timings etc. Do you need to pay for that information? No. Because you have not got to your destination but just found out which bus takes you there and what time does the bus arrive.

    2. Media example: You buy a radio and tune into your favourite news channel. Do you pay for the news? No. Its probably an advertisement driven model and you hear the news for free for the minor irritation of having to put up with their ads.

    In example 1, you got information about the bus and timings – that is Google search for you – its just telling you where to go read further. If you ride the bus, you buy a ticket – that is your subscription model.
    Example 2 is where you read news sites or blogs which are advertisement based – they can be pop-up ads, banners etc. You tolerate all that in return for the news you are seeking.

    So, which model any website wants to pursue should be a matter of choice for the website owner and not blame Google. By just inserting some text in your website you can prevent google site from searching and indexing your site. So, Google has already given that option. So I do not see too much water in media making a hue and cry about Google news.

    1. rabigupta says

      Very well explained :)!

    2. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Madhav,

      Very well explained…completely second your opinion… !

  3. Harish Dobhal says

    Interesting! This is nothing but a typical ‘crying fowl on new technology’ thing. I compare it to Lalu and Mulayam announcing plans to stop computer usage for the sake of preserving jobs.
    Rabi is right, you can’t be hostile to croc if you need to live in water. But, what Rupert is doing is outright foolish. WSJ, like all else in industry needs Google to increase its subscriber base. If someone lands at WSJ.com story through Google News and then subscribes, who gains? WSJ, more than Google. If he blocks google bots then it will be like that branch of tree on which he is sitting.

  4. Indian says

    Google will involve in spam activities(google docs, google news etc.), but they will announce it as a free service and will drive more traffic to the websites.

  5. Vishal Sanjay says

    No, i agree that Google is a major source of traffic for news sites, but sites like WSJ.com have a subscription based monetization model and this effects them a lot, they don’t want traffic they want subscribers, and i also believe that Google is a major source for the decline of the newspaper industry. Many internet entrepreneurs say information should never have been free. Not only Google, the first newspapers to make an online portal made this mistake and i think standardization steps should be taken to avoid market fluctuations.

    1. rabi gupta says

      Hey Vishal,

      I agree you for WSJ.com, but for other websites it may be very difficult to survive w/o Google and yes the problem definitely is that every one has a notion now that everything on internet is free. But the mindset is now like that, and standardization would b really difficult!

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