Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Time to shut down Google News in the UK

Shel Holtz alerted me to the news that a Belgian court could potentially block Google's news aggregation business.

A complaint against the internet giant was launched by Copiepresse, an organisation that manages copyright for the French and German-speaking press in Belgium.

The court has ordered Google to stop reproducing articles from French-speaking newspapers in the news section of one of its Belgian websites.

Online French-speaking newspapers in Belgium may be so awful that no one goes to them. I don't know. But if they are good enough, the web traffic to their sites via Google News must be significant.

The UK press through the Newspaper Licencing Agency, prevents copying of newspaper clippings unless you want to go through a process of licencing and paying fees for doing so.

There is a lot in common between these two ideas.

I use Google News a lot. It is how I get a lot of my news.

Yesterday 23 people went to news sites because of my posts about newspaper stories. It is not many, but there are millions of bloggers doing the same thing. The press would forego millions of hits.

Referencing web sites is why the web is successful and why so many blogs are popular.

Now, lets suppose we did not have Yahoo News or Google News services. Would I buy more newspapers. No. I would rely on other, online, sources.

However, it would reduce the on-line traffic to the press by a lot because so many of us do reference press articles online. In many cases denial of search services like Google News would make the newspaper web revenues shrink to the point where they would be meaningless.

The citations that did not go into the Google News Archive would mean that the media will, over time, also loose the 'long tail' benefit for their on-line content. A double whammy of nonsense by people who just do not understand the nature of the digital tsunami.

It would quickly kill off most newspapers and the survivors would have almost nowhere to go with their on-line plans.

Perhaps it is time to try the experiment.

Shut the service down for a day and see what happens.

Its rather like the press clips. All those opportunities newspapers used to have to put their brand in front of hundreds of people in companies that used to circulate clips has now been reduced to a handful. Who now knows what publications are relevant, interesting, part of their life? A handful at company HQ, who knew that anyway and, incidentally, no longer have time to read clippings.

Do you wonder why newspaper readership is declining.

Perhaps having a dog in the manger attitude to the brand in the name of copyright with a half life of cod 'n chips was not such a clever idea after all.