Google has again recruited from BBC staff as part of attempts to encourage online publishers to make more of the media giant’s news platform, this time hiring the broadcaster’s head of development and rights Madhav Chinnappa.
According to a report by paidContent:UK, the position is likely to centre on improving relations between Google News and newspaper publishers as many continue to question the value of the site to them – as demonstrated in a debate at the Frontline Club last week, attended by another former BBC recruit Peter Barron, who previously edited Newsnight but now heads up Google’s communications and PR department.
It’s a new post, and a sign Google is increasingly keen to dampen increasing scepticism, from some newspaper publishers, regarding its attitude to content, and instead come to amicable arrangements.
Debate raged at the Frontline Club last night as Google and news publishers came head-to-head for a panel discussion on the search engine and its impact on the industry.
The very title of the event “Google: Friend or foe of newspaper publishers”, part of the club’s monthly On the Media discussion series in association with the BBC College of Journalism, set the topic of early debate, as Peter Barron, former Newsnight editor and now head of PR for Google UK, sought to banish the idea of the company as an ‘enemy’. “Google is unequivocally a friend of the newspaper publishers. Our aim is to work with them,” he said.
Challenged about the ethics of “taking stories for nothing” through the Google News platform, he added that the service followed the free structure of online news.
We absolutely we do not steal content. News organisations put their content on the web for free everyday by their own free will and Google helps people find that content. We send clicks to the pages of news websites. We send a billion clicks a month to news websites globally. Once there, those clicks are a business opportunity for the businesses involved.
A business which he claims generates revenues of £5 billion worldwide. But the value of a browser who clicks through from Google is minimal, Matt Kelly, digital content director for Mirror Group Newspapers argued. In fact, he said, he’d rather not have them at all.
We need to worry a bit less about search engines and worry a bit more about our readers. We weren’t that impressed with the value of audience we got via search engines. They came across it via Google and buzzed off again, that’s Google’s audience. It’s not our audience. We can’t successfully leverage a disconnected audience.
He added that many news organisations moving online were “blinded” by the reach the internet and sites like Google enabled them to have.
I think they confused reach with audience, they confused numbers with engagement. It was a very alluring thing (…) So we pumped the market full of inventory and there was too much inventory for advertisers to supply. There’s not enough advertising in the world to fill all of the content that newspapers put out online. So what happens is the rate collapses. So suddenly this reach came back and bit the newspaper industry on the arse. So in all this great reach, the rate of revenue coming back from it is in terminal decline. What we would sell 4 or 5 years ago for £8 cpm now we’ll sell it for 80p cpm. This is not a sustainable business model. This is a product of the erosion of engagement that Google brought to news content.
Kelly later added that he would rather get one click-through from Twitter than 100 from Google, where someone has said “check this out” and recommended it. “I’m not interested in people who stumble and go, would rather not have them at all,” he said.
Earlier in his introduction, fellow panel member Patrick Barwise, emeritus professor of management and marketing at the London Business School, had agreed that Google was “a good thing for consumers (…) Good thing for advertisers. Bad thing for media companies.”
He said the revenue model for Google focused on making money from advertising and not re-investing much of it into content. Without Google, he added, the world would be a better place for news organisations.
Who’s going to pay for the content? Google isn’t going to and why should they? Google helps people find content, however if you imagine a world in which Google didn’t exist and nothing else like it, that world would be better for news organisations (…) The amount of revenue per reader generated online is much less than what can be generated by a print reader.
Peter Barron responded to say that the problems for news organisations have been caused by the internet as a whole and that too often people “transpose” the internet and Google.
The internet changed the news pattern forever. Thats what has caused huge problems for the news industry. People often transpose the internet and Google. The newspaper industry has faced a huge disruption because of the internet and woke up to it a little bit late.
Wired and Press Gazette MediaMoney columnist Peter Kirwan, who was also on the panel, added that many online news publishers simply have their priorities “skewed”. If organisations could cut out the “astronomical” costs of printing, they could begin to think about becoming digital only, he added.
The rhetoric that surrounds the idea of the news media exchanging print dollars for digital dimes, in other words (…) the available CPMs (cost per thousand) available on the internet are so much lower than in print – well yes they are – but the cost of putting out newspapers is also astronomically high (…) Strip that out and those digital diamonds don’t look so small (…) News organisations who are currently print dominated could start to think about becoming digital only and I think the rhetoric is now getting slightly tired of exchanging print dollars for digital dimes, we need to move on from that a little bit because I think the possibility of a digital only existence is starting to open up.
Looking forward, audience members asked about the future of paywalls and whether news publishers would ever consider building a shared wall. This prompted another panel member, paidContent’s Robert Andrews to ask Barron if Google could say anything on rumours the company was developing a ‘Newspass’ micro-payments system, met with a “no comment” from Barron.
Kelly added that it was up to newspapers to map their own future, but for the Mirror Group, it was about ensuring an engaged audience, rather than being obsessed with traffic from “transient visitors”, which he called this “a sickness that has pervaded the industry”.
Lots of people used our content but didn’t care about it. We’re trying to get to position B, its free and they care about it but then one day we might get to position C which is that they care about it so much they might be willing to pay for it. I wish [the Times] had gone to position B first and see if they could have engaged the audience and care a bit less about SEO.
Journalism.co.uk’s podcast from the event can be found here. See video coverage of the event below:
The platform, which will be launched in September, was reportedly announced by France’s National Daily Press Union as an alternative to Google News, after negotiations with the search giant over ad revenue failed.
The maneuver comes months after Google announced its intention to include advertising on its news aggregation system. French newspapers had tried to negotiate with Google to receive a percentage of the ads revenues. But, as their request was denied, they have decided to launch a paid service of their own.
According to the post, the content’s price will be fixed by daily fees or subscription packages, with options to pay for individual articles or complete publications. News organisations signed up so far include Le Monde, Libération, Le Figaro, Les Echos, Le Parisien and L’Equipe, all of whom are thought to be in talks with Orange and Microsoft Bing about building the platform.
I think people care about what other people are interested in, most importantly in their social circle (…) but beyond that the world at large. I think there is an influential, intellectual component to our audience that cares very much about getting the hard news of the day. I don’t think there is a risk of us personalising so much that we keep the hard news out the picture. We have an editorial responsibility not to do that.
[Jonathan Stray] I chose a single big story and read every single version listed on Google News to see who was doing the work. Out of the 121 distinct versions of last week’s story about tracing Google’s recent attackers to two schools in China, 13 (11 per cent) included at least some original reporting. And just seven organisations (six percent) really got the full story independently.
Google News introduced a new recrawl feature this week, which allows the search engine to revisit news articles for changes – most frequently on the first day after Google finds them.
For readers, this feature is intended to reduce the number of outdated headlines and dead links you might find. And for publishers, rest assured that we’ll be back to find your latest stories and updates as soon as we can.
New Associated Press (AP) stories, hosted by Google itself, are no longer appearing in Google News, reports Danny Sullivan for SearchEngineLand.com.
It’s true. Since Dec. 24, Google has no longer added new AP content, something the company confirmed with me today [Friday]. I received this statement:
“We have a licensing agreement with the Associated Press that permits us to host its content on Google properties such as Google News. Some of that content is still available today. At the moment we’re not adding new hosted content from the AP.”
So why not? The statement doesn’t explain. But it’s reasonable to assume it’s related to the ongoing talks between Google and the Associated Press.
Publishers using restricted access systems will be able to prevent Google News users looking at more than five pages of content a day without registration or subscription.
In the post, Google said:
“We’re happy to see that a number of publishers are already using First Click Free [a system allowing very first article view by a Google News user] we’ve found that some who might try it are worried about people abusing the spirit of First Click Free to access almost all of their content.
“As most users are generally happy to be able to access just a few pages from these premium content providers, we’ve decided to allow publishers to limit the number of accesses under the First Click Free policy to five free accesses per user each day.
“This change applies to both Google News publishers as well as websites indexed in Google’s Web Search. We hope that this encourages even more publishers to open up more content to users around the world!”
Users will therefore be able to create their own news sections outside of those already offered by Google News.
As ReadWriteWeb explains:
“Part dashboard, part feed reader, and all user-friendly, this service promises to be both popular and useful. Users can create sections based on keywords and then publish their sections to directories for sharing with others.
“Multiple sections can be added to a user’s Google News homepage, creating a customized, keyword-based digest. this feature is turning Google News into the infinitely segmented, infinitely remixable modern newspaper; and with all the sources Google indexes, it’s just what users need. Unfortunately, it also deals yet another blow to suffering old media publications, many of whom aren’t too happy about the distribution of their content in the first place.”