Posted April 8, 2009 1:00 pm by with 4 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re the newspaper industry. Your ranks are dwindling as even old stalwarts are dropping like flies. You’re pretty much clueless about the online information economy. You’re even resorting to using your old nemesis, video, to attract online viewers.

So now what? Oh, I know! Let’s lash out at Google. Clearly, the failings of a centuries-old industry to adapt to a new communication paradigm are all Google’s fault. (What isn’t?) As reported by Business Week, because this is the logical route to take (DUH!),

the AP plans to build an online destination where it hopes Web users can easily find and read its news stories and those of other content creators. When it comes to compiling online news, the AP wants to out-Google Google. The Web search giant “has a wacky algorithm” for collecting news stories, AP Chief Executive Tom Curley says in an interview. “It does not lead people to authoritative sources.”

(Do we need another link this week to ZDNet’s Larry Dignan and his documentation on how the AP isn’t an authoritative source in the first place?)

Danny Sullivan took this kind of thinking to task yesterday:

Newspapers get special treatment, both with First Click Free and with the extraordinary amount of traffic they get from Google. And while their top managers go off on renewed Google rampages, they still continue to work to get even more traffic. It is stunning hypocrisy, and certainly not what you’d expect from smart business people. But given how badly their papers seem to be going, I suppose they aren’t so smart.

And now Google CEO Eric Schmidt is stepping up to the plate to defend Google News, via paidContent:

Asked at the Newspaper Association of America conference in San Diego today if there’s a way to tweak the algorithm to lean towards “credible brands,” Schmidt explained: “We actually do that in the case of Google News. Google News uses a relatively fixed set of sources which are selected based on exactly the kind of trust that you’re describing.”

But general search is another matter: “We’ve been careful not to bias it using our own judgment of trust because we’re never sure if we get it right. So we use complicated ranking signals, as they’re called, to determine rank and relevance. And we change them periodically, which drives everybody crazy, as or algorithms get better. … The usual problem is you’ve got somebody who really is very trustworthy, but they’re not as well-known and they compete against people who are better known, and they don’t—in their view—get high enough ranking. We have not come up with a way to algorithmically handle that in a coherent way.”

And even if Google does solve that, it won’t necessarily favor news organizations: “We don’t want to do the kind of thing you’re describing unless we can do it across the board and for all categories of trusted institutions, not just newspapers.”

The bottom line? Love it or hate it, Google is how people find things on the Internet. If you don’t want Google to use/abuse (depending on your POV) your content, hello robots.txt. But if you want to take advantage of the traffic that Google can send your way, it’s time to stop griping and start adapting, newspapers.

What do you think: can newspapers ultimately adapt enough to find their place on the web, or is it too little, too late?

  • I think newspapers can survive if they can keep up with the fast pace of the internet. Unfortunately, many people who work at or own newspapers still have that old-school mentality of marketing and public relations.

    Maria Palma’s last blog post..4 Entrepreneurs Who Are Dedicated To Helping You To Start An Internet Business

  • Wayland Wong

    What “online economy” are we talking about here??? The same kind that had made the last cyber bubble? It is funny that some blogger thinks that they are so “high tech” that they are beyond the basic economy rule that there is no FREE lunch. Would you still be visiting google news often if it is just a regurgitation of the _blogs_? The fact is, google takes _freely_ the content that news papers spent millions of money researching and sell them to us (by the way of advertisements).

  • Um, this would be the online information economy. I don’t see what this has to do with any Internet bubble; information is probably the #1 good on the Internet today, not overvalued stocks.

    Personally, I don’t visit Google News (or the AP), but I do read many, many blogs. And as mentioned in the article, the AP essentially just regurgitates press releases.

    I used to teach a college class with an econ unit; TNSTAAFL doesn’t mean you have to pay money for every good. It means that there’s an opportunity cost for every decision.

    It is funny that some essentially anonymous commenter thinks they’re above common courtesy. Oh, wait—no, it isn’t.

  • Cilly Wei

    If all AP does is “regurgitates press releases”, I am all for Google taking over AP’s job!

    After all, this is a free market economy and who does the job with more efficiency wins the job!