Bullet, meet foot

Spanish newspapers beg for help as Google News closure looms

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Having lobbied hard for a Spanish law that forces Google to pay royalties for using snippets of articles in its News service, and having since seen the company say it would shut down Google News in Spain because it doesn’t make money off it anyway, Spain’s publishers are now trying to stop that closure.

The Spanish Association of Daily Newspaper Publishers (AEDE) said in a statement late last week that “the closure of Google News…is not equivalent to the closing of another service given its dominant position in the market and will undoubtedly have a negative impact on Spanish citizens and businesses.”

AEDE said it therefore “requires the intervention of the Spanish and EU authorities, and of competition authorities to effectively protect the rights of citizens and businesses.”

Google News is due to close its Spanish doors on Tuesday. The intellectual property law (again, fought for by AEDE) is too inflexible for the publishers to be able to grant Google free use of text snippets and image thumbnails — as happened in Germany.

There’s no questioning the fact that Google is, as the statement also notes, “the true gateway to the internet” in Europe, where it has more than a 90 percent share of the search market. As the company’s long-running battle with EU antitrust authorities shows, Google can and sometimes does abuse this position to favor its own services over those of others.

But this copyright dispute, which has played out in several European arenas, has little to do with competition. Google quite reasonably doesn’t think it’s fair to have to pay publishers to send traffic their way — traffic that the publishers then converts into advertising revenue.

The publishers wanted money for nothing. They didn’t get it. Google has the right to shut down its services. The publishers do now face a “negative impact,” but it’s entirely of their own making. It’s just a pity that this negative impact will also hit Spanish citizens.

25 Responses to “Spanish newspapers beg for help as Google News closure looms”

  1. Julio Alonso

    At the end not much has changed. Google has closed its news.google.es site, but it still crawls the newspapers and shows results as usual both on the news tab in search and on the news module on top of search. Therefore, the impact on their traffic will be relatively small (kind of 1% or so). Google comes out of this unharmed economically and as the victim that is liked by everyone.

    The AEDE newspapers come out with no money and a very substantial credibility and public image crisis. Spain becomes laughing matter internationally and this seriously hampers the Spanish startup scene. And other smaller local news aggregators like Menéame are the ones who suffer most from this and most likely will have to either close or move outside Spain.

  2. Your assertion that Google is a monopoly is fundamentally flawed. A monopoly exists when one producer controls the vast majority of an industry. Monopolies ae therefore reviled because of the power that they wield over the consumer who has no choice. The internet is fundamentally different. Even if Google is used by 90% of EU users, there are other alternatives that are readily available and equally good. Therefore, any unfair advantage that Google has is offset by the ease in which consumers can change their search options, without cost, and without a degradation of service.

    • Sholto Ramsay

      Not necessarily. Information monopolies are complex as information markets tend towards monopoly as economists recognise. In the case of Google and consumers: there is no reason for a consumer to change search engine as it is free. However, the monopoly exists when the customer which is to say the paying user has few or no choices. In europe, small businesses have few choices except for Google. You could argue that they could use other services, but with 90% of consumers using Google, this is a de facto monopoly where the power to set prices and market rules is in the power of Google. We can advertise on Yahoo or Bing, but this provides little return. When we consider the question of Google being a monopoly, we can look at how publishers must accept the terms of Google whether they like it or not. That they cannot do without implies some form of monopoly.

  3. Just like Google to the Telcos, and now to the Newspapers.

    If you would continue to held your breath for Telco’s revamping of their business, or Newspapers to wake up and smell the roses, you might have either suffocated, or comatized.

  4. Nick Zwar

    If the Newspaper Publisher’s Association in Spain is SO F***ING DUMB that they did not see this one coming, how reliable can the content they produce possibly be?

    First they whine that Google steals their content by linking to them, and now they whine Google won’t link their content anymore? They seriously didn’t see this one coming? They were seriously that uninformed, that dumb, that corrupt. Well then, hasta la vista and good riddance, I say. :-)

  5. Alessandro

    you are missing the real point here. Google is “the true gateway to the internet in Europe, where it has more than a 90 percent share of the search market.” This certainly is a worrying scenario for any market. It is unhealthy both for users (unaware) and for companies(too small). It is not just a “condequence” of free market and competition. Shouldn’t we be skeptical about a 90% monopolist in any so-called “free market”, no matter the level of innovation it implies?

    • Elijah Bee

      The internet is not a traditional market, Google is used 90% of the time a person in Europe makes a search on the internet because they’ve done a better job than other players. There’s nothing Google is doing to stop Europe’s residents from using a different search engine. Google is not a 90% monopoly. It’s that other search engines are used only 10% of the time. Google shouldn’t be forced to worsen their services, others should work harder faster to win the hearts and fingertips of the people in Europe.

      • David Meyer

        That’s not strictly correct. Google is the default search engine across most browsers and mobile devices, and people hardly ever change defaults. So it’s as least as much about Google’s commercial arrangements as it is about users’ active choices.

        • John Gibson

          Nothing is changing with the search engine. Only Google News is being impacted – if a Spaniard does a search for a local publication in Spain they’ll still find it.. I see no relevance to Google’s search marketshare in this unrelated context.

        • Adam Patrick

          IE = bing.com (comes pre-loaded on all Windows computers)
          Firefox = yahoo.com (3rd party browser you install)
          Safari = google.com / bing.com / yahoo.com / duckduckgo (comes pre-loaded on Macs / iOS)
          Chrome = google.com (3rd party browser you install)

          So google.com is currently default on Chrome and you have the option in Safari to make it default along with 3 other choices. However you must download and install those browsers on your own accord. IE uses bing.com. Microsoft holds 90% of the OS market, therefore with IE pre-installed on all those computers with the default being bing.com. And yet 90% of searches are done through google.com.

          People use google.com cause it’s better not because of commercial arrangements. They switch the default search engine to it or just go to google.com. One of the first things people ask me is “How do I make it so google does the searches instead of me having to visit the site?”

          YOU ARE NOT FORCED TO USE GOOGLE. Stop calling it a monopoly.

          • David Meyer

            Firefox still uses Google as the default in Europe – Mozilla has signed regional deals, and the Yahoo default is only for North America. So Chrome, Firefox and Safari all default to Google, making it the default option in around 80 percent of the EU browser market. (IE is no longer the default option on Windows in Europe, because of the browser choice mechanism that stemmed from Microsoft’s antitrust settlement.) Add to that the fact that Google search is the default when you’re searching in Android and iOS, and there’s Google’s 90+ percent market share of EU search, entrenched largely through default settings. That’s not to say Google isn’t the best search engine, or that people don’t generally prefer using it, but hardly anyone in Europe ever even tries an alternative, because of the defaults. I’m not making this up – it’s why there’s been a massive search antitrust case for the last four years.

    • Mike Lewis

      How does Google’s size justify a state-imposed fee on anyone who wishes to quote and link to an article? It doesn’t. The law is not only wrong, but it’s now regretted by those corrupt CEOs and politicians who implemented it.

    • Lets not forget, that the majority of PC sold to public have “other search engines” loaded by default. Add to that, the millions of PC browsers that are hijacked daily.
      When is the last time Google hijacked your PC?
      The 90% figure, just tells me Europens are more tech-savvy.

      The 90% market share is not a result of preloading every windows os with google search engine, or hijacking peoples browsers. Its a conscience choice of every user.
      What scares you? The freedom choose a search engine? Or the lack of better options?

  6. Bardolobo

    I don’t defend Google often, but as a spanis citizen only thing I can say is: well done Google.

    This crazy law has been forced by a smal group of the older and bigger newspapers which haven’t been able to adapt to new technologies. In exchange, the government has received absurdly positive news in these papers. So yes, it has been a corrupt law, and a majority of people here are against it, even lots of smaller newspapers and news blogs.

    AEDE, not knowing anything about how Internet works, thought they were gonna blackmail Google. Now, it has been a shoot in its own feet.

    • Robert Ballecer

      What beating would that be?

      They just turned off a service that made them no money, would have cost them millions of dollars in fees, and drove traffic to the same greedy publishers who thought Google should pay them for the privilege of driving traffic to their sites.

      Now that it’s actually happened, the Spanish publishers are seeing a 15% drop in external traffic, Google has saved millions, and the rest of the world is shaking its collective head at a group of publishers who don’t seem to understand how the Internet works.

      Yup… that’s a heck of beating.