May 23, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Newspapers want Google News' quarter

For years now, newspapers have quietly watched Google index their headlines and offer users a synopsis of their stories without paying them a dime.

Google is supposed to make it easier for newspaper readers to find content online. But some in the industry are questioning whether it makes business sense to allow Google to use their material for free.

"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.

At a time when anyone with a blog can compete against vast media empires for readership, newspapers may be taking a harder look at their relationship with search engines and sites that aggregate headlines. The question some analysts are asking of media companies is: what's taken so long?

"There is going to be some sort of attempt by newspapers to figure out how they can be fully compensated for their work."
--Aly Colon,
Poynter Institute instructor

"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."

Google's position about paying newspapers to index headlines has never wavered. "We don't pay to index news content," said a Google spokesman in an e-mail.

The spokesman was responding to last weekend's report in Scotland's Sunday Herald that Google was in talks with British newspapers to obtain the rights to use their stories. Google flatly denied the story.

"We have not changed our approach to Google News," the company said in a statement about the Herald's story. "We believe Google News is legal. We index the content of thousands of news sources online. When users go to Google News, they see only headlines, snippets and image thumbnails from the relevant news articles. If people want to read the story, they must click through links in our results to the original Web site."

But not everyone agrees Google News is legal. A Belgium court ruled against Google last year after a newspaper association there sued the search engine. The newspaper group asserted that by offering snippets and headlines from their publications, Google violated copyright law.

Google immediately stopped indexing stories belonging to the association's members. This month, however, links to the Belgium newspapers reappeared. Google and the newspapers said they settled their differences on some issues and were trying to resolve others. Last month, Paris-based news agency Agence France-Presse reached a licensing agreement to settle its copyright lawsuit against Google that allows Google to post AFP content, including news stories and photographs, on Google News, as well as on other Google services.

Last August, Google announced an agreement with the Associated Press that allows it to use AP news and photos, but not in Google News. The content will be part of an undisclosed service under development.

While some in newspaper circles point to the Belgium court ruling and the content deals with AP and AFP as a sign Google may be willing to pay for content, Google fans and bloggers interpreted the news quite differently. To them, it was obvious that the Belgium group had agreed to settle--even after winning its court case--because they discovered that they needed Google's traffic more than the fees that could be generated from news snippets.

Observers note that with newspapers receiving about 25 percent of their traffic from search engines, losing Google's traffic had to sting.

In business stories, newspapers are often lumped in with industries supposedly being bulldozed into extinction by the Internet. Readership across the board is falling fast and advertisers continue to migrate to the Web. The big newspaper companies, which typically enjoyed monopoly-like domination in their communities' advertising sector, are now scrambling to find new business models. Newsrooms continue to shrink.

More bad news came last week when the San Francisco Chronicle announced it was laying off 100 out of 400 editorial staff workers. Yet, even in a climate like this, newspapers should look for ways to boost revenue other than taking on Google, said Barry Parr, an analyst with JupiterResearch.

"They should be looking for the broadest distribution means possible," Parr said. "If you look at the penetration rate of newspaper Web sites, it's not all that high."

What would happen if newspapers went the other way and demanded that Google compensate them for using their stories?

Parr predicted newspapers would take a thrashing. In such a scenario, Parr said, Google would refuse to pay and stop indexing their headlines. It may not even be worth it for Google to fight it out in court. "Google isn't exactly raking in the bucks on Google News," Parr said. "There's no advertising on it."

Meanwhile, said Parr, newspapers would lose readers. Competitors would likely rush in to fill the void.

"(Newspapers) wouldn't be missed," Parr said. "Some people who used to go to The New York Times will find something else to do. They have to realize that the choice isn't between the Times and The Washington Post anymore. The choice is between the Times or watching YouTube. Newspapers are competing with a wide array of media."

See more CNET content tagged:
Google News, newspaper, Tribune Co., Belgium, headline


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Then what is legal ??
If google news is not legal, then google search, google image and video is also not legal, google search also shows related short text from the page, documents irrespective of it is copyright material or not.
Posted by amitpagrawal (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey mainstream media, ever heard of a robots.txt file?
More than two years ago, I posted this article about Agency France Press (AFP).

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

Put simply, any media outlet can deny access to Google by putting up a robots.txt file.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by directorblue (148 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You should read your own links...
Its very possible that you could have a robot/spyder that ignores robots.txt files.
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Link Flag
More idiots trying to use lawyers to generate revenue...
I am thoroughly sick of hearing about these corporations who turn to lawyers to find some way to generate revenue. If I were in charge of Google, I'd just flex a little muscle- simply stop indexing their articles and put them on the bottom tier of internet searches. It won't take long for the idiots to realize how much ad revenue their losing when the bottom drops out of their website traffic.
Posted by hounddoglgs (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Newspapers not forced
Newspapers, nor anyone else for that matter are forced to put whatever content out there they choose to put out there.

If they put it on the web, it is findable. If what they write they want read worldwide matters to them then they will keep writing it.

I would assume that journalist became journalist because they like people hear what they have to say.

Their money comes from their locales. I don't live in New York so why would I order the New York Times or any other paper and pay for it to come in the mail? Not today.
Posted by Eskiegirl302 (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How stupid can they get?
Every link to a story via Google, brings visitors to the newspaper's Web site and eyeballs to their advertising. Are they serious about wanting "less traffic" to their site?

They ARE getting paid... by their advertisers. If I were paying a newspaper to have my ads on their pages and they blocked Google, I would pull my advertising.
Posted by El Kabong (100 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Posted by djpaisley (80 comments )
Link Flag
Newspapers are local
Local advertisers don't benefit from eyeballs outside their market area.
Posted by mvanpatten (1 comment )
Link Flag
Very, very stupid, that's how.
The way they're thinking, they'll probably start charging the paperboy for the right to deliver their newspapers to subscribers' doors.

What a bunch of thick-headed idiots!
Posted by tundraboy (494 comments )
Link Flag
Something for nothing . . .
Well, I can drive traffic to your pages and advertisers, or not. You choose.

. . . and your checks for free.
Posted by zclayton2 (130 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why Newspapers are Dying!
Actually, newspapers should thank Google for giving them the free
ride! They will get nowhere with this immensely dumb idea.
Posted by ecotopian--2008 (451 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Newspapers should pay GOOGLE
For sending the newspaper sites traffic, which generates revenue from the advertisements, which pays their bills.

The newspapers are destined to become memories of a bygone era if they fail to adapt to the ways of today.
Posted by real_bgiel (46 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I couldn't agree more!
This is exactly what I thought when I read the article. It costs
the newspapers nothing to have their articles indexed by
Google. The headlines and snippets serve only as a means to
direct readers to the information they seek. If they click on an
index entry, the reader goes to the newspaper's site. Isn't the
purpose of a commercial site to get more eyes on a page?
Advertisers pay by the number of eyes that view their
advertisements. Google news pages contain no advertising, so
Google isn't making any money directly from the indexing. All
they get out of it is viewer goodwill.
Posted by Marc Myers (51 comments )
Link Flag
i manufacture 8 track cassettes
um yeah i manufacture 8 track cassettes and i am suing companies that manufacture those new fangled compact disk things. i also manufacture floppy disks so i am going to sue companies that make usb flash drives. that way, i can successfully squash new technology to keep my dying industry alive. and don't even think of making an electric car...
Posted by sadchild (280 comments )
Link Flag
Good be happier to hear the news! Pardon the pun!!
Their liberal bias is ridiculous. I stopped reading the Washington Post because I just couldn't stand the bias in their reporters' articles. I switched to Their reporting is was news should be--just the news!! No stinking liberal agendas or commentary embedded in the article.

Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I love it, the nice touch of sarcasm. I'd bet most people don't pick up on this.
Posted by zboot (168 comments )
Link Flag
what an idiot
"If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content, how profitable would Google be?"

real answer: they'd have $1,000,000,000,000,000 minus about 5 cents
Posted by sadchild (280 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Newspapers are dying
Newspapers are dying because of 2 things. 1) people of the computer generation don't like reading them. 2) People that aren't left-wing accolytes are tired of the extreme left-wing bias of 90% of the newspapers.

I wouldn't use my local paper in the bird cage.
Posted by ejryder3 (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Newspaper aren't dieing
Newspapers are changing. Subscriptions are going down, but every newspapers website is skyrocketing with new readers. Who is going to write the articles for local news? CNN, MSNBC, Google? I think Not. Wake up people.
Posted by jer_bec (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
They aren't thriving, that's for sure. And web readers don't create revenue. Advertisers create revenue. And the advertisers are going straight to Google.

But you're right about changing. The smart ones will figure out a way to survive. And I'm thankful because regardless of what people have been posting, the real reporting seems to get done buy the newspapers.
Posted by Jeremiah256 (28 comments )
Link Flag
Intellectual property rights
everyone do agree that it is not legal. it is covered by property rights. Business and IPR are two separate things. The business side of this issue is far from being new; it is the volume that is. And the point of using Google to develop or assert a business is fully valid. BUT, it does not mean that the IPR part of the point falls and that it is irrelevent.
Fighting for your rights and the liberty to do ones business whithout being stolen from ones property is indefinitely valid.
"laisser faire" is not a sound decision. Never.
Posted by rissenbeck (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Newspapers are doing okay
Newspaper subscriptions are shrinking, but most are still very profitable.

They aren't cutting staff to reverse losses, but to increase profits.

They're a bunch of crybabies. Yes, it costs a load of money to keep a big staff and be a great newspaper, but they make the decision that they need 10% more profit this year so out goes the staff.

Screw 'em.
Posted by regulator1956 (577 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Newspapers WOULD be missed...
Sorry Mr. Parr, watching cats do stupid tricks on YouTube is no replacement for the original news content created by the Washington Post and New York Times.(I read both, online, daily.)

"(Newspapers) wouldn't be missed," Parr said. "Some people who used to go to The New York Times will find something else to do. They have to realize that the choice isn't between the Times and The Washington Post anymore. The choice is between the Times or watching YouTube. Newspapers are competing with a wide array of media"
Posted by john55440 (1020 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The hidden value of newspapers - proofreaders
I never appreciated newspapers so much until I saw the spelling in the posted replies to this story. Dieing instead of dying? Buy instead of by? Does anyone know the difference between your and you're or there, their and they're? Wow, our children are in serious need of help.
Posted by 3tire (261 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Newspapers should be thankful
Google News actually leads people to their websites. It's like free advertising. GN doesn't copy the whole story. It gives you a teaser and you have to click and go to the newspaper (or whichever news source) and read it their. Then the sources get gobs and gobs of extra eyes on their advertisers.

The newspapers should welcome this extended coverage with open arms, not open hands (for money).
Posted by jamesreb (33 comments )
Reply Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.