Posted May 23, 2007 10:41 am by with 12 comments

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This is typical! While I’m trying to figure out how to get Marketing Pilgrim accepted into Google News, traditional newspapers are still griping about having their news stories indexed!

“If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content, how profitable would Google be?” Sam Zell, the new owner of the Tribune Company, asked reporters during a speech at Stanford University last month. The Tribune Company operates the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

Zell didn’t wait for the reporters to reply, according to The Washington Post. “Not very,” he said.

It really is baffling, don’t you agree? You can’t actually read the entire article on Google News and Google is likely sending thousands of visitors a day to online versions of newspapers. It’s not like Google is charging a subscription fee for Google News or making a ton of money from advertising.

“Newspapers are trying to find their way to understanding and addressing the value of linking,” said Aly Colon, an instructor at The Poynter Institute, a school for journalists. “The search engines are supposed to be sending traffic to newspapers. But on the other hand (journalism) is hard work…There is going to be some sort of attempt by newspapers to figure out how they can be fully compensated for their work.”

Huh? They run ads on their web pages, charge by CPM and pray that Google keeps increasing the number of visitors it sends their way.

Ok, someone help me out here. We have a number of respected journalists that read MP, so perhaps they can help me understand what I am missing. Is it just that newspapers are ignorant or just inept at monetizing their own content?

  • Newspapers – in my opinion – have been ‘silently ignoring’ the likes of Google for many years.

    I can date this back to my days in the SF Bay Area when a Head Journo at a Knight Ridder newspaper totally blanked me (told me to get effed) when I told him of my seeing all news online in the near future.

    The guy was talking to an advertising bod for the same paper at the time.

    Newspaper news is old news and they will suffer more as the “high horse snotty nosed brigade” fall from grace.

    The really smart journos are blogging and making dosh with adsense.

    Perhaps they could team up with MS and step further back in time…..

  • I really think it’s ignorance. They’ve spent so much time ignoring the web and trying to pass it off as a fad that they have been left behind and really missed the boat on some technology that would totally increase their reach and revenue. Instead of designing their sites for users and engines like everyone else does in order to gain exposure and maximize conversion, they consistently produce cluttered poorly organized sites that break common practice standards that enhance the visitor experience. How many times have you read an article at a newspaper site that references or mentions a website, then provide no link? Pretty much every time. They are so paranoid about visitors leaving (as if they are somehow trapped if there is no outbound links) that the sacrifice the quality of the experience.

    And the advertising, my god, there is no focus! Most newspapers sites seem to have the ad lineup of your common scraper site. Used cars, dating services, mortgages, job listings, banners, banners, banners! How about targetting the ads to the article or section of the site someone is looking at? They could quadruple conversion rates by just doing that alone. Most newspaper sites are a case study in ad blindness. People learn fast to ignore 5 of the 6 columns of crap most designs are laid out in.

    To me, it has to be ignorance, no matter what the motivation. They are mass quality content providers, that is what they do, produce content all day. They try to monetize this with ads, whether online or offline. Yet, Joe Average Blog eats their lunch all day in the SERPs without hardly trying, so much to the point that engines had to create things like Google News just to ever let those newspaper sites be found. They should be thanking their lucky stars Google News exists, or they would be losing more ad revenue than they could ever dream of. They should be doing heavy duty SEO all day if they hope to survive.

  • My Answer: I’m not a business man per se but I say still really really porfitable. I don’t think their earnings would even dip.

    Do I win something?

    Are these guys for real? What’s next are they going to start suing the world for using RSS? What I wouldn’t do to get to the top of Google results for most of the worlds daily news. Cry me a river.

    How bout this one Sam Zell. If the Chicago Tribune wasn’t at the top of all the chicago news search results and some random blog was that just regurgitated chicago news, would the tribune company be making more or less money?

    My Answer: Less!

  • Zell = Clueless

  • I work as a Web developer for a newspaper and I can say that there’s some truth to what you’ve written. However more and more newspapers are seeing the writing on the wall and investing time and money into building up and optimizing their online efforts. It’s easy to see the print subscription base shrinking and print revenues dropping as well. Those papers that don’t adapt will just fade away or get bought by a company that “gets it”.

  • Patrick – they’ve been asleep in their ivory towers too long.

    Even the “smalltown local rags” are dying off as their news is pretty corny and they have to kiss the advertisers botties with wanky “five star reviews”

    My town Huntersville NC – next to Charlotte – pop 30,000 has a local rag which will fizzle out as we have better newsier local blogs – I own one. I don’t have to beg or kiss up to the advertiser….


  • David – I agree that a lot of papers will be struggling mightily in a few years (if not sooner) as their traditional revenue streams dry up. If a blog can beat a paper, then more power to the blogs.

    However we are determined to buck that trend and go down fighting if that’s what it comes down to. Most papers’ biggest asset is local content so that’s what we’re trying to capitalize on. We’re attempting to build a community around our site through story comments, real blogs, forums, user submitted photos and video, and several other means. The odds are stacked against us, but I’ve always loved a good challenge.

  • Um, kind of a stupid question… but did you try this link?

  • Tom

    It is pretty simple.

    Newspapers think in terms of geography. Back in the day, if you lived in Buffalo you got your news from the Buffalo News. You did not drive to Cleveland to get the Plains Dealer.

    So they had the vehicle to sell specific ads of local businesses to local people. And if you were a national business, the local paper was still the best vehicle to get to those people.

    Now there is Google News which messes up the papers conventional thinking two ways. First, their local people can read the stories in other papers. That is stealing.

    Second, and more importantly, the local advertisers do not want to pay for a non local person to see their advertising. If I am in Atlanta and read the Buffalo News, I will not be buying a car from the Buffalo Ford Dealer.

    So the newspapers, whose job is to sell advertising, is losing readers online in one direction, and gaining readers from outside their target market that ruins the ROI for the local advertisers and creates a harder sell for them.

    Essentially their marketing methodology is getting creamed in both directions. That is why they hate Google News.

  • Tom has a great point about the geography! Newspaper decision just makers don’t get it. I’ve seen some newspaper companies that have gone online, and they still do the same things they’ve been doing for years in print (e.g the mind-numbing amount of ads).

    Other reasons for the decline in newspapers? The late reporting, and the political slant.

    These companies don’t realize that people are too smart to continue to read “editorials” that are quoted by unnamed sources, and passed off as news.

    These guys are lucky to have Google news.
    Thanks Andy!

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