A Solution To The Newspaper Industry’s Battle With Google


Ken Doctor analyzes the news business on his blog Content Bridges and for Outsell, an information-market analytics firm. He worked at Knight Ridder for 21 years and was an executive in content services, strategy and editorial for the company

This article originally appeared in Newsonomics.


Mike Placid

Problem with inventing the reason to tax Google News is that Google News per se is a pretty simple thing. You do not need rocket science or Silicon Valley formula making wizardry to index 4000 news sources. Again: just 4000 sources. Anyone with a spare 100K bucks can index 4000 web sites (actually I think it's more like 5K bucks, but let's be conservative here).

Hence the idea not to build Our Own News, but to go after Google to force it to "share wealth" speaks for itself: wealth in Google is not in News, but in other parts of Google… No?


The cat that is out of the bag is that readers generally will not materially pay for online news content (unless it is highly specialized and actionable for profit or serious benefit).
For the most part they will keep migrating to the gazillion and free-ly available news content and even resort to other forms of citizen journalism and social news sharing.
Design new pay models and approaches that accept this reality.

Bill Densmore

Hi Ken:

No reason to do any fancy algorithm. Let the market do it with a wholesale-retail setup. Google links to articles. The the user pays via their most trusted
InfoValet, settled monthly, Google gets a "referral fee" for making the connection, the fee being set by the content provider. The content provider sets
the wholesale price of the content, pays the referral fee to Google, and the user's InfoValet decides what to charge the end user — subscription, per
click, free, whatever. That's the retail level, worked out in the marketplace.

Google decides whether to link based on how much of a referral fee a given content provider gives. If Google thinks its too low, it can choose not to
link. If it is really high, maybe Google links aggressively to that site. Or maybe Google stays neutral. Again, worked out by the marketplace.

Let's discuss this and other ideas at "From Gatekeeper to InfoValet: Workplan for Sustaining Journalism," May 27, in Washington, D.C.
www(dot)journalismtrust(dot)org. Also see: www(dot)infovalet(dot)org

Mike ODonnell

Ken, this is a excellent analysis and one of the best posts on this discourse. Too many are focused on defining the problem as a legal issue (fair use, copyright, DMCA, etc.) and not focused on workable solutions (21st century business models). As you know, we have been working on this solution for more than 10 years. We saw this day coming in 1999.

Our independent research shows that the solution is to make the content MORE accessible, not less. Unfortunately, the publishing industry has wrought the damage that has been done to itself by how they deploy article tools and their copyright notice. They inadvertantly promote the misuse of their content. The key to maximizing revenue and minimizing piracy of news and information content is to make it easy for people to use it (print, email, save, share,post) instantly and LEGALLY. Our research and the proposed soluton (that many publishers have begun to implement) is outlined in this white paper:


It's not the end-all-be-all, but the user research proves it will solve a big part of the problem.


I think we've come to the point where news consumers are the ones play an active role in deciding what to read/watch, as opposed to in the past when they only got to choose to believe or not to believe the information filtered by news organizations. Media acting as gatekeepers is no longer relevant in the world in which most people have equal access to information.

I believe the more you open up your content to the public, the likelier you're going to attract more page visits and revenues. Therefore, to have someone with authority, like Google, direct the traffic to your site is something you should be appreciative for. Better yet, to have an analyzer highlighting the content the audience should pay attention to, like what Newsy.com is doing, could totally benefit the original sources.

This, in return, will promote competition for high-quality content among news organization and shore up the journalism industry.

Mike in San Jose

This approach only makes sense. Google will continue provide a great product to its users and its shareholders without the AP or other newswires… or local newspaper coverage. What is remaining in terms of News content will come from other local news sources includiing bloggers from the formerly employed newspaper writers and reporters.

What Mr. Doctor is doing is asking for what's fair…and, perhaps what is morally right.

In America, we reward companies with the almighty dollar. People do not go to Google for news. They go there to find something….sometimes it is a web site with certain content and less often it is for today's news. And, as long as the success of Google is dependent on users needing Google to find content —not necessarily news — they will survive quite nicely thank you.

Newspapers are too caught up in the past and dealing with the business matters of getting the "daily miracle" out the door everyday. And, they don't have the management talent to get their head out of delivery statistics to comprehend the strategic significance of the web.
And they evidently think the only solution to the current crisis is to cut their way to profitability. Now THAT is vision.


Your argument is anecdotal, facile, placatory & specious. Simply being jealous of Google's economic model does not entitle you to a part it. "Fairly share the wealth" – honestly? you're promoting the Kindergarten school of economics? It's time to pack up your toys and go home.



Precisely the point R…the only explanation I see is a lack of the type of leadership that would bring consensus among traditional media (not just newspapers)….enabeling it to come up with a viable/competitive alternative to Google….without it (as we're seeing) a rapid decline…which will eventually bring their downfall…remember there would be no greater promotional engine to get this alternative going then the combined promotion of traditional media…..Onward and Upward….(for anyone interested I can be reached at…nomeandre@hotmail.com)


Ken, I have to say I agree with the major point you're making. The current distribution of wealth (so to speak) that originates from people reading the stuff news organizations put out isn't right. It's not "fair" in the "fair share" sense. And clearly the question we're left with after reading this is: how to make it fair?

It seems to my layman's eye that there will eventually have to be a legal reckoning on what "fair use" means in a 21st century context. Can a Google keep using snippets of news from other sources for free, only providing the benefit of added web traffic in return? When you think about how poorly web traffic to news sites translates into dollars and cents now, the answer can't be yes. But can it be legally proven? And if so, why haven't newspapers changed their stance and gone after aggregators like Yahoo and Google?

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