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External traffic to Spanish news sites plummets after Google move

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As expected, Google removed all Spanish publishers from its Google News index on Tuesday, which the company said it was forced to do as a result of a new law — a law that publishers themselves lobbied for — which requires anyone using even a short snippet of copyrighted content to pay a fee. According to the web-analytics service Chartbeat, within hours of their removal from the Google service, Spanish media sites saw their external traffic fall by double digits.

Josh Schwartz, the chief data scientist at Chartbeat, said the company doesn’t track every Spanish news site or publisher, but it has enough data on them as a group to indicate just how dramatic the traffic decline was. The service tracks about 50 sites, he said, ranging from small media outlets to the largest newspaper publishers, and looking at the data shows “a pretty massive difference” in traffic compared to a similar day before the removal. On average the drop is between 10 and 15 percent (Chartbeat only includes traffic from clients who have consented to have their anonymized data used).


The entire Google News site in Spain was removed at about 8:30 pm Eastern time on Monday, replaced by a message from Google saying the search company was “incredibly sad to announce” the removal of Spanish publishers and the closure of the site. The company said it could not pay Spanish news sites for snippets of content because Google News itself doesn’t make any money, but that it was still “committed to helping the news industry meet challenges” in other ways.

Spain is only the latest country to get into a content fight with Google over news: German publishers helped lobby for a similar law to the one in Spain — although it doesn’t require that publishers charge for excerpts, as the Spanish law does, by setting up what’s called an “inalienable right.” German publishers forced Google to remove their content, but after seeing the dramatic decline in traffic, which was also in the double digits, they rescinded that request.


Spanish publishers are now asking for help from the government because of the impact of the law, even though Google warned that it would have to remove their links if the law was passed (any links to Spanish sites are also removed from other content on non-Spanish versions of Google News, but they remain available through a regular Google search).

According to Chartbeat’s data, overall traffic to Spanish publishers hasn’t fallen by as much, but the amount of external traffic has declined sharply, while the amount of internal traffic — coming from other Spanish publishers — has risen. Schwartz said this suggests that readers are moving between different Spanish news sites more than they did previously, rather than coming to them from links at Google News and other sources.

57 Responses to “External traffic to Spanish news sites plummets after Google move”

  1. Well, duh. Of course traffic from external sources like GOOG dropped. BFD. The goal in the long run is to increase direct traffic. When the public learns that they can’t rely on GOOG for free news, they’ll start coming to legit sites that pay the reporters. Will it work? It had better because letting GOOG nick everything for free isn’t paying the bills. They don’t generate enough extra traffic from people who want more than the part that GOOG steals.

    • Ryan Foli

      Google was helping these sites generate more viewers by giving people a quick, easy access point to lots of different publications. You are obviously just a Google hater, as most of the sites linked to Google News are major sites which all pay their journalists. Google News is a good thing for everyone. Everyone except Google Haters and dictators that is.

  2. Anatólio Nobre

    It’ll eventually hurt ES sites one way or another but its too soon to tell and quantify, at least considering this data. It’s Christmas season for one (traffic plummets) along with many other variables. Ceteris Paribus.

  3. I´m currently in Salamanca and I´m really pissed about this law. And other people are too. The main problem is that very few Spaniards are able to search information in English, so it means a big blow to the community, not even mentioning those in Latin America, who use Spanish sites as a source of information. I´m just expecting the conservative Spanish governmental Popular Party to introduce drones to do the public surveillance for security reasons. No hope for the civil rights, despite the efforts coming from civic society.

    • Yes, a number of people have mentioned that — these were just designed to give a sense of the size of the drop, which obviously will be different for different sites, depending on the traffic they get. I have asked Chartbeat for more detail if they can provide it.

      • Just to close the loop on this, Josh Schwartz of Chartbeat said that the period covered by the charts is 15 hours, the x-axis represents time and the bottom of the y-axis is at 0. He added that no more detail is possible because “for anonymized/aggregated data we leave off absolute numerical labels on the y-axis.”

  4. Miguel L Henche

    Are you comparing against the same day of the last week? in a newspaper? and using chartbeat data? really?

    Its very difficult to segment the data of the google news snippet in the analytics tools, even for the in house analyst.

    I dont like AEDE law, but the data you provide makes non sense

  5. I don’t think it’s a big deal. I think it will either bounce back eventually, perhaps in a different way. 10-15% in the first week isn’t that much really… by the headline “plummets” I thought it would be down at least 50%.

  6. COSI Open Solutions

    This sends a message to growing numbers of media companies putti g up pay walls and restriction to news. They are just shutting down traffic being directed to their site from small newsletters and content curatio sites around the world.

    • Google never created its network by design – it evolved. If news aggregators went away, news sites and similar businesses would easily create the same channels for sharing.

  7. Google’s news aggregation business model is to steal the IP of news organizations to promote its brand. Fact. It doesn’t matter that a vibrant business environment has developed around Google’s theft. That’s true of any black market. If we enforced property rights laws and Google had to pay all publications to reprint their IP, the same number of eyeballs would simply shift to different channels. Google would loose out. Users aren’t looking for stories because they love to do the activity of search on Google. They’re looking for stories because they love stories. Correct the legal issue of ownership and everything will take care of itself.

    • Or.. Or.. Google can just stop providing the service as it has done. This is just the greed of publishers to want more than what they are getting, which is free traffic without the cost of maintenance. So, they want to charge the provider of this free web traffic money for providing them with traffic. The provider (Google) is smart to not accept those terms and close it doors. If it had such a huge impact on their Business Modal, they would have negotiated.

      • Greed of the publishers? How about the greed of GOOG? They’re 10 to 100 times bigger than even the established newspapers. Their ranks are filled with billionaires. A well-paid writer or editor barely makes more than $50k. Get a clue. This is all about GOOG’s greed.

        • thesuperstitions

          Google does NOT advertise when it aggregates news “snippets”, which it links back to the original content provider. A big win for the content provider. Google makes NO MONEY on this service and yet drives users to the sites of content providers. Publishers are very stupid to have pushed this law, and now they regret having done so.

          • It doesn’t matter if Google makes no money. Can I take your picture and put it in my brand awareness campaign without your permission? I wouldn’t be making any money.

        • Greed is not the issue. The headlines, first couple of lines and photos are the property of the news outlet. Google uses these without permission to promote its own brand. You can avoid this central and uncomfortable fact, and have drawn out discussions of greed, services, traffic, etc. But you wouldn’t be talking about the real issue.

          • Google never used any content without permission. The news outlets always had the ability to remove their content from Google news if they wanted to. They all chose not to because Google news was good for them. Just like when google announced it was shutting down news they tried to get the government to force them to keep it open (as if there would be any legal way to do that), because they *want* that traffic, they just wanted some easy money too.

      • Baloney. GOOG is the one getting something for free. Paying journalists costs money. GOOG just feeds a few computers to use old algorithms developed years ago. After the electricity and the cost of some underpaid intern, it’s all gravy.

    • Lose, not loose.

      Steal? But they don’t make any money on directing new traffic. So, steal what? Withouth them their traffic plummeted. And yet don’t pay Google for the traffic they once enjoyed. So, where are you going with your argument?

      This was nothing more than publishers’ greed, and stupidity. The AEDE and the Spanish Gov’t decided to grab the bull by the horns but it backfired, big time, and deservedly so. Idiocy shouldn’t be rewarded. The AEDE/Spanish Gov’t didn’t have their thinking cap on this time.

        • Willy André Bergstrøm

          If you read how and when Google News was created, you’d see it’s exactly out of charity.
          Before Google News, there was no decent service to quickly let you get an overview of the news day as it evolved.

          Google is not paying for the snippets. That’s true of both Google News and Google Search. The newspapers choose to stay in though. It’s trivial to block Google access to the snippets. It’s two lines of code in your robots file. The traffic sites get from Google News is too valuable to them though, so they won’t do it.

          In Germany, when a similar law was passed, Google solved their problem by ditching all German publishers, and then letting them sign their sites back up if they wanted to. Surprise, surprise, most of them did.

          • You seem to be arguing a point I did not make when you say German publishers signed back up. Here’s what I wrote: “It doesn’t matter that a vibrant business environment has developed around Google’s theft. That’s true of any black market. If we enforced property rights laws and Google had to pay ALL publications to reprint their IP, the same number of eyeballs would simply shift to different channels.” If the playing field were leveled and all aggregators had to get permission from all rights holders, we’d probably see some capitalism at work.

            And the claim that Google runs it news aggregator as a charity… you really believe that?

    • I so weirdly agree with you. I don’t dislike Google but they are a private service: They get paid by marketers based on the popularity of their “content” which happens to be search results that include snippets of copy written material.

      If a television station narrator (news anchor, talk show host) quotes a snippet from a published article or features a film clip from another private source in the course of a broadcast they are required to work out a deal for handling the rights of that material in advance. How does Google get a pass?

      They get a pass because they’re the only game in town for publishers who couldn’t wrap their brains around the digital revolution before it wrapped around them. Most newspaper and periodical publishers didn’t get it until they were going out of business. That’s where you find them when Google walks away; out of business.

      When you’re hooking that low on the streets that shady Google guy isn’t just your pimp, he’s your employer.

      Some publishers figured it out and have lively, vibrant and moneymaking presences on the web -New York Times, Bloomberg, etc. They wouldn’t miss Google. However, they also recognize the value of “AM Radio”: Limited distribution rights in exchange for publicity. The radio station makes money from advertising and the content producer makes money from the publicity provided by the station.

      The only difference between that and Google is a written contract agreed-to in advance. I think that should be required (but then I’m not a failing newspaper.)

      • AnSc ☀

        As I understand it Google provides a service for the publishers. They post the headlines and an abstract of the news article and when the reader is interested they follow to the original publishers site.
        So I understand that Google generates traffic to theses sites where the publisher then has some advertisements installed which in turn generates revenue to the publisher.
        So in my understanding the publisher needs to pay for this service as it increases his income…
        If you took an actual look on Google News you would have seen that there is no advertisement on the site. So how would Google make money from it?

    • Yes, back to the Inquisition, back to corruption, ignorance and fear!
      Let’s blame Google for the AEDE’s idiocy and the Spanish government’s stupidity, it’s Google’s fault. And let’s burn some witches too while we’re on the topic.

      • It seems to me that Blokeados! is siding with Google on this one, and asking for Google to remove all AEDE media not only from Google News but also from the search engine as a punishment for their (AEDE media’s) greed and shortsightedness. So I think you both are in agreement. As am I.

  8. CBDunkerson

    Google should have left the site open and just stopped including media located in Spain. That would have immediately pushed spanish language news sources from other countries, and particularly various expat communities, to the top of the results… not just denying traffic to the media conglomerates in Spain which caused this mess, but actually directing it to competitors.

    • That wouldn’t work: they would still have to pay a fee because they were operating in Spain. The authority collecting it would determine the amount arbitrarily. We Spaniards sadly know well about those fees…

    • Pedro Torres

      Spain is close to a revolution, but it will be a democratic one. A new party, Podemos, has recently come top in the polls with 30%, and it keeps rising.

      We are only awaiting general elections to kick socialists and conservative out of government.
      They are desperate. The Internet has taken over politics in Spain.
      They are scared. We internet citizens from Spain, are PROUD of paying them back in kind.

      • Martin Hernandez

        Good luck with that. How do you plan to fix the causes that allowed this law to be approved, nominally the Financial lobbying of the Corporations in Spain Politics, that gives them a weight not proportional to their representativity?

      • Don’t be fooled: Podemos is a populist party. I speak seeing them from the distance, with some perspective, since I’m an emigrant. In the beginning their sudden rise was very good, it made many people think. However in the end they’re offering more of the same old recipes, only coming from the lack of associated political corruption cases. They decided to not run for any of the forthcoming local elections in order to stay “clean” and don’t lose chances for the general election.

        But their congress was a mess. They improvise way too much, and that’s guarantee of nothing. Another sad example for me: when they had the chance to confront Ms. Aguirre in court, they failed in the most basic stuff. The words “típica chapuza hispánica” immediately came to my mind. I really wanted them to defeat that old cunt.

        Never forget that Spain massively voted PP in the last general election. Even if it was clear that it was all a lie, that the campaign was just a smoke curtain. But no, they were our saviours from the crooked PSOE. So, still looking for the next saviour, huh?

        When will Spanish people understand that regeneration starts with each of them becoming a better person? Just check how everyone speak in every kind of discussion forum, nearly always in a confrontational way, pub-style, and never acknowledging what the other person says, seldom trying to understand it and discuss it in a rational way.

        Not my cup of tea, that’s why I said the final farewell. This law is the least aggressive of those the Government is currently preparing, restricting the right to demonstrate or criticise.

      • Guang Min Lye

        Yeah, see? That actually why I think the Spain Government pass this law.

        This Google News closure in time would effectively destroy the little guys in the Spain News business, & the only ones that survive this make-shift internet blockage will be the giants, the ones that the correct Spain Government controls.

        Why would they try to censor the web before elections? I’m pretty sure they’re going to cheat their way to victory in Spain coming election. Since there would be less ‘free’ & therefore true news outlets in the future, the con would be easier to work.

      • Evading taxes of a service they provide for free? Lol, when you exit the hole you’ve been living in for the last couple of years, you’ll find that you don’t pay company’s money for making them money.

      • No tiene sentido su argumento, pues cómo se les va cobrar un impuesto cuando no hay ninguna ganancia. Es que no tiene lógica. Eso es pensamiento de pobre, robarle a alguien sólo porque tiene más que uno, y eso no vale. La vida no es así.

        • Martín

          Como dice el de arriba, que Google sea gratis para ti no quiere decir que no cobre por otros servicios. Google gana mucho dinero COBRANDO por sus servicios sin pagar impuestos ya que factura desde Irlanda, lo cual SI es injusto.

          Por favor, informense antes de hablar.

    • The Spanish Empire took place in the 16th and 17th century. The British, Dutch and French Empires took place in the 18th and 19th century.

      As for your comment of “they” stopping to live believing the still rule the world – my friend, after going through a civil war and the postwar hunger, current ~25% unemployment, low growth rates, and chronic corruption, no one in Spain believes they rule the world. :)

    • Mad Hatter

      @Sebas Fleischhacker: That is a very unfortunate and untrue comment. Spain’s current government is ran by outdated bureaucrats (not 18th, but from the early and middle 20th century), disconnected from the majority of the people, very different to them.

      Pedro Torres explains what’s going on, how is the people being organised and attempting to change the situation.

      In any case, the situation in Spain and the editorial content laws, among others, have nothing to do with thinking of “ruling the world”. That was long before the 18th century.