Some data that is certain to be used to back up assertions that news aggregators — like Google (NSDQ: GOOG) News — are competing with newspaper sites as much as they are driving traffic to them. A survey of nearly 3,000 U.S. news consumers by research firm Outsell shows that 44 percent of Google News visitors say they scan headlines on the site without actually going on to the news sites themselves; “power news users” (people who check the news at least twice a day) are even more likely not to click. The survey also shows that search-news aggregators are increasingly being turned to as a primary source for news.
Google contends that Google News drives billions of clicks each month to news sites, which news sites can then monetize. When we asked the company for comment today, a spokesman said, “We show just enough for users to identify the stories they’re interested in — a headline, a short snippet and a link to the publisher’s site — and we direct users to those news sites to read the stories.”
Worth noting here that Outsell isn’t quite an impartial observer in this debate. As the company itself points out in the text of the survey report, it “has long asserted that news publishers — as valuable suppliers to Google’s ‘manufacturing’ process, monetized largely by ‘paid search,’ deserve greater payments from the market-dominating search engine.” One other caveat: The research firm asked users to comment on their news browsing behavior, instead of actually tracking it.
The survey’s other findings are less striking: Consumers continue to “trim their newspaper habits.” Local newspapers have an advantage over other news sources when it comes to local news. And 75 percent of news users would turn to a different source for local news if their papers began to charge for online content. That adds to a canon of other surveys on that controversial subject; just one example: Forrester also determined recently that 80 percent of consumers wouldn’t access newspaper and magazine content online if it were no longer free.