It has been a truly bizarre week when it comes to the news industry. The week began with the French government threatening to charge Google for indexing the content of their major news publications. A similar argument has been made by the Brazilian news industry. Their main industry trade body recommended members blocked Google News from carrying their content, a move which their members were only too happy to support.
“Staying with Google News was not helping us grow our digital audiences, on the contrary,” said the association’s president, Carlos Fernando Lindenberg Neto.
“By providing the first few lines of our stories to Internet users, the service reduces the chances that they will look at the entire story in our websites,” he said, in an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.
It’s a decision that I frankly can’t quite get my head around. Google are indexing and providing access to the publishers content completely free of charge. They then advertise that content to millions of users via either the main search engine or via Google News, again free of charge. Google themselves report that over a billion clicks are sent to news sites from Google News, with your humble blogger an avid user of the service.
So I’m struggling to see how the service offered by Google is in any way negative, much less the stealing of content that the French and Brazilians seem to think it is. They seem to be failing to appreciate that for many consumers of news, especially of a younger demographic, search engines are their first means of finding and accessing news. If you’re not present then you may as well not exist.
Of course if publishers leave en masse then that may be enough to force a change of habits, but forcing users to change something they willingly love doing just so they can fit into your model of news delivery is incredibly short-sighted.