In case you’ve missed the kerfluffle recently, the AP is rather dissatisfied with their relationship with the Internet, and Google in particular. Google is everyone’s favorite villain these days. I mean, aren’t they singlehandedly bringing the newspaper industry to its knees?
Not so much, as TechCrunch reminds us. Google News isn’t the most popular news site on the Internet:
In the U.S., Google News is overshadowed by both Yahoo News and even the sites controlled by the New York Times (which includes NYTimes.com, Boston.com, HeraldTribune.com, and several other newspaper sites). According to comScore, Google News attracted 16.2 million unique visitors in the U.S. in February, compared to 42.3 million for Yahoo News and 46.2 million for the sites operated by New York Times Digital.
So leaving Google News aside, we come to probably the more important question of whether the search engine (which does dominate its niche) is really a threat to newspapers, in controlling the way we users access news sites. (Because it’s really hard to type in “ap.org.”)
The heart of the AP’s argument is that Google is depriving the news company of its hard earned ad dollars. However, as TC points out:
The money Google makes from its search ads is not necessarily money that would have otherwise gone to a “news” or content site. If Google didn’t exist, those ad dollars might have gone to an e-commerce site or a travel site or a real estate site or any number of other places. News sites have no claim to those search advertising dollars. It is incumbent upon each of us to attract an audience by having something original or interesting to say. When news sites do that, other sites link to them, and then they rank more highly in Google search results, which sends new readers their way.
And, as always, news sites should remember this important fact: if you don’t like Google, it’s really easy to block them. If you think Google’s stealing your content, use robots.txt to block the crawlers from your site. Problem solved.
Other than the fact, of course, that you want the traffic (and thus the higher advertising rates) Google sends your way.
What do you think: can newspapers ultimately adapt enough to find their place on the web, or are they simply too married to the old ways to try to find a different model that might work better?