Posted February 13, 2009 3:44 pm by with 15 comments

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by Matt Rebeiro

I was tickled this week to read the news that Google has set up shop (okay, a data centre) at an old paper mill in Finland. They paid a lot of money for the mill and much has been and will be made of this.

This purchase struck me as symbolic for another reason: paper is how we traditionally get our news (in that the new is—duh—printed on paper), yet these days more and more of our [news] media is consumed online and is discovered using—you guessed it—Google. So, as Google supersedes print journalism it also buys out from under it the very means of creating print journalism!

Whilst over at my company blog my colleague Leo has been looking at the role of journalism online, my thoughts have been provoked recently by the accusation of former journalism watchdog Steven Brill that the Huffington Post is nothing but a parasite and Peter Osnos’s assertion that

The notion that “information wants to be free” is absurd when the delivery mechanism [i.e. Google] is making a fortune and the creators [i.e. the journalists] are getting what amounts to zilch.

With regards especially to Osnos’s statement I think the news that YouTube will share revenue for downloaded content with its media partners is the first step on the road to revenue parity between content producers (and media owners) and Google.

It’ll be a long road, of that I have little doubt, but it is nice to see how journalism (and content production in general) might continue to thrive in the face of ever-decreasing margins.

Matt Rebeiro is a social media strategist for London-based company Ryan*MacMillan where he helps brands take advantage of the opportunities social media presents by planning, creating, managing and measuring social media activity that connects brands with audiences.

  • That’s interesting if Google has started this business.

  • well…dont the delivery mechanism and the journalist feed on each other?

    I doubt any one would allow the other to decline….that would just be akin to making a hole in their own pockets…

  • I think Osnos should probably have cited EPIC 2014 — the flash movie that circulated half a decade ago and which covered (in fictional, and futuristic detail) so much of what he argues.

    I think that we should be careful to distinguish between “content creators” and “journalists” on the one hand and “media owners” and “channels” on the other. Too often an ill-informed audience can conflate the two. Not understanding that TV channels rely on independent content producers, or that newspapers rely on freelance journalists and writers (or even that record labels rely on independent artists) makes the argument so much more complicated, don’t you find?

    Look — On the whole we don’t get our news on paper; we get it via radio or TV (both of which have steadfastly refused to kill newspapers off.) The State of the News Media report from says that “Newspapers are still far from dead, but the language of the obituary is creeping in. The industry has been in declining health for some time now. It got sicker rather than better in 2007, and 2008 offers no prospect of a quick cure.”

    The important words to pull out there are “in declining health for some time.” It’s not just the web. That would be to ignore the massive convergence of media ownership, overall changing attitudes towards news, the commodification of the writing and editorial functions, and the consequent rise in churnalism.

    Their websites are doing OK, of course. We keep hearing uplifting news stories about that (although I suspect we all take these with a pinch of salt.)

    Things will change. Paper may even become a niche medium. But I don’t think it’s happening as fast as people think it’s happening.

    (For some useful links, see my Journalism bookmarks on delicious)

    Mat Morrison’s last blog post..links for 2009-02-14

  • Vic

    What a move by Google. But it is really interesting to see how will it goes. Just curious if Google can still be a giant on a line like that.

  • When Google turn into more offline works my suggestion is they should hide there “google brand on the sandbox “I don’t think google can be the king of everything,mostly in the “real world like this”however it is nice to meet Google in this new challenge,I will wait your innovations to compete your elder industry in this ” unexplored area”

  • More to capitalize on every investment with Google

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  • Nokia went from Forresting and Rubber Boots into Mobile phones. That day the CEO got almost killed because employees didn’t see any future.
    Still it was the best decision ever for Nokia & Finland.

    Now Google goes from Internet search technology into a Mill.
    No employee spoke out.
    No CEO got endangered.
    Maybe the worst decision of Google?

  • Jordan McCollum

    Just in case this was unclear, Google will be converting the mill into a data center. This doesn’t represent a shift for Google’s main strategy.

  • Google never ceases to amaze me. Whenever I turn around, they’ve bought something new, or improved something they have, or launched another product… Should we be concerned? It’s taking over the internet.

    When I heard the news of YouTube, I thought it was quite clever, especially in a recession… and it will help Google Checkout increase its market share.

    But they are truly getting to big… And what’s this about the mill?! lol. I know they’d never use the mill in the way it was used before, but what is to stop them from getting into other forms of media? print… radio… paid word-of-mouth advertisers? lol.

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  • I assume that everyone knows that Google offers print ads?

    Mat Morrison’s last blog post..links for 2009-02-15

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  • @Matt: Not for much longer

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  • @Jonathan — oh snap! I’d heard rumours of that, but couldn’t find a reference. Thanks.

    Mat Morrison’s last blog post..links for 2009-02-15

  • *Apologies if I didn’t make it clear enough that Google are NOT going in to print media! – thanks for clarifying Jordan!*

    @Malignant Melanoma: I agree that “the delivery mechanism and the journalist feed on each other” – the point I sought to make is that the delivery mechansim enjoys a disproportinately large chunk of the revenue. Of course the two form a symbion circle but for it to work there needs to be financial reciprocity and equality. Well, possibly, as you’ll see from my response to Mat below this is certainly not a new problem…

    @Mat Morrison: You’re absolutely right that I played a little fast and loose with terms such as ‘journalist’, ‘content producer’, ‘media owner’ and ‘channel’. I’m not sure its as complicated as you suggest however. In old media each medium relies on a delivery system: bands need a record label, freelance journos need a newspaper, writers need publishesr, tv shows need tv networks and so on. What we’re beginning to see is that where the producers of media content (be it writing, music, whatever) might by-pass “management” to get their content in front of an (online) audience, the internet (and in the case of my initial post, Google) is taking much the same slice of revenue as traditional media distributors (i.e. media owners and channels) did. The problem is, the content producers didn’t think they were going to get similarly shafted!

    @Shirley: Nice thought about purchasing YouTube vids increasing Google Checkout market share!

    @Jonathan Beeston: thanks for the link – really interesting!

    Matt Rebeiro’s last blog post..Look at me Mum: I’m guest blogging!

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