It’s all Google’s fault

What a bunch of crybabies:

GOOGLE is a wonderful thing. It is also a dangerous thing, as it keeps demonstrating in its quietly rapacious way.

The latest is from Italy. The Italian newspapers are complaining that Google News Italia is using their content without permission, and without payment. Under Google’s rules, they can withhold their work from Google News Italia only at the price of excluding their pages from all Google searches.

You let us use your work for free, or we don’t let our customers find your Web page.

That is Google’s take-it-or-leave-it deal — in Italy and here, too. Google’s paid minions make this arrangement sound like philanthropy, but its fairness is more apparent to Google than to anyone else. The statements that count most are financial, and what they tell is a story of market dominance.

Google has two-thirds of the market in search — a share more than three times bigger than the No. 2 in the market, Yahoo. In the Bush administration, this seemed to bother regulators only on Wednesdays and Fridays. They blocked Google’s deal with Yahoo, which stopped Google from increasing its dominance. The Bush people did little to deprive Google of the dominance it already had.

The book publishers did get together and sue Google over the theft of their content by Google Book — and, last November, Google agreed to pay them for their property. Maybe the newspaper publishers need to do the same.

Hey Seattle Times, I just used your work for free… why don’t you sue me too? Come on… I dare ya!

First of all, perhaps I missed it, but I don’t ever remember the Times editorializing in favor of breaking up any of hometown Microsoft’s monopolies, and few companies in recent American history have acted more intentionally monopolistic than our neighbors in Redmond. To dismiss Microsoft as “so last century” is to miss the point; the Times had no problem with Microsoft’s monopoly as long as our local economy benefited from it.

But the larger issue here is: quit your whining!

Again with the Google is stealing our business crap; indeed far from it. Google doesn’t steal readers, it drives them to your site, as evidenced by the Times own bullshit “1.4 million people read The Seattle Times newspaper” banner they’ve been plastering at the top of every page. You think the bulk of these individual readers has bookmarked the Times, or intentionally typed in its URL? No, the bulk of them have clicked through links on Google and elsewhere, teased by the exactly the kind of “theft” about which the Times so vociferously complains.

The Times and most of the rest of the newspaper industry isn’t suffering because search engines and bloggers are stealing their content, but because of poor business decisions and an inability/refusal to adapt to changing technologies and tastes. And the quicker they come to terms with this, the quicker they’ll halt, and possibly even start to reverse, the appalling collapse of the local press.

Comments

  1. 1

    Cato the Younger Younger spews:

    One of the really nasty side effects of hard core market place capitalism is that eventually all knowledge that at one point was public domain will become the private property of the corporations; only to be released to us petty people for a fee.

    Remember when you only needed to cite where you got the information from or the quote? Those days are coming to an end. Soon you’ll need to have a monthly subscription just to acquire the most basic knowledge of what is happening around us. So much for the internet’s role in the “information age”.

    If you use anything I just mentioned I will so totally sue your ass off right into the poor house!!

  2. 2

    ivan spews:

    few companies in recent American history have acted more intentionally monopolistic than our neighbors in Redmond.

    Ticketbastards says hello.

  3. 3

    spews:

    In this one case, it sounds more like a copyright issue then a “oh horrors the blogs are scooping us” issue. Very much like the fight that the Authors Guild had with Google.
    I realize you’re dying for that martyr cred, Goldy, but here it’s all about creator’s property.

  4. 4

    rhp6033 spews:

    Exactly what content of the Seattle Times are they stealing? A short quotation of part of a sentence, with a link to their website so a person can go directly to the source if they want to read more (and view the banner ads on the Times web pages as well?)

    More to the point, over the years the Times (and most other daily newspapers) has just cut back on their own reporting to the point that it’s just repeating wire service stories in the greater majority of their content. You can read those same stories over and over again in multiple newspapers and magazines, online or in print, from a variety of sources. I normally scan about five six to eight news sources online every morning, and I don’t find a lot of original reporting. Even the local reporting is little more than a cursory re-hash of the police and fire reports, etc.

    Of course, the Times and the other daily newspapers make a big story out of their big-series investigative reporting. I agree that there’s a need for that. But how many such big investigative pieces do we see a year – maybe one or two? I think last year it was a series on how local hospitals were slow to react to an infectious bacteria outbreak that started about a decade ago. And the year before that, it was a series about how the U.W. football program, along with sympathetic law enforcement and prosecutors, had failed to reign in several U.W. football players in some serious brushes with the law – events which occured about six or seven years or so before the series was printed. They were good series, as I recall, but by the time they made it into print it was more of historical interest than hard-hitting reporting.

    In other words, it seems that the Times (and the Italian papers) are complaining that Google isn’t paying them to drive viewers to their sites, where the Times can re-print stories verbatum which it paid a wire service to write for them, and which is almost identicial to hundreds of other newspaper web sites throughout the country (and the western world) which is regurgitating the same content.

  5. 5

    rhp6033 spews:

    Actually, the bigger problem to authors seems to come from Amazon.com. Amazon will re-print entire chapters from an author’s books so readers can judge in advance whether or not they want to buy the book.

    I know one local author who was shocked to see the table of contents and several chapters of her book printed on Amazon.com. She found out because others had lifted the content from Amazon and were re-printing the content on their own websites, some with attribution, and some without. Since it was a non-fiction book, the end result was that some valuable advice was being given away for free.

    When she raised the issue with her publisher (who holds the copyright), and asked them to force Amazon.com to take down the content, she was told that it doesn’t work that way.

    You see, Amazon, Walmart, and Borders are the big 500-lb guerillas in the publishing business. Amazon.com insists that publishers give it the right to re-print anything they want from the book in exchange for selling those publisher’s books on Amazon.com. If they don’t want Amazon.com to publish the chapters on the Amazon.com website, then Amazon.com simply won’t sell the books – thereby cutting out a huge market. So the publishers and the author have no choice but to comply with Amazon.com’s demands.

  6. 6

    Now you see it spews:

    @1 “Soon you’ll need to have a monthly subscription just to acquire the most basic knowledge of what is happening around us. ”

    Er, you mean how like in 1983 I had to pay $.25 for newspaper, each and every day of my life, to find out what was going on? Or I could “subscribe” to the newspaper and get my news delivered to me. It wasn’t free then. It’s not free now. Your point is?

    There is the library thing. I could (and did as a college student) just go to the library to read the paper. We as a community pay taxes to make the library “free” to anyone who needs it. I assume news will be free in some form at public libraries. They “pay” for a subscription (to the newspaper or web site) as part of their service. I assume that will continue in some form.

    @5 That author is an idiot. I’m MUCH more likely to buy a book from Amazon if I CAN see the table of contents and/or index. It lets me know if the book will contain the information I need. I don’t expect/want the full text of the entire book, but enough info that I can judge if it’s the book I want to buy.

  7. 7

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Take a look at the Headline of the Times Website–
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.c.....index.html

    They are claiming 1.4 million READ the Seattle Times.
    1) What does READ mean?? Read all of it…or just the sports section?
    2) How did they come up with the 1.4 million number??

    I skim the headlines and occassionally read an article. I guess I’m one of the 1.4 million.

    If I go to the Times Website 5 times/day…am I 5 readers??

    If you want to have some fun…vet that 1.4 million number.

  8. 8

    spews:

    ivan @2,

    I said “few” companies.

    Cynical @7,

    I believe they are referring to the approximate number of unique visitors to their website each month. Perhaps they’re adding in some portion of the print circulation.

    While a very large number of these 1.4 million “readers” link through to a single article, newspaper folks like to console themselves that their readership is at an all time high, when in fact I think there is a strong argument to make that newspaper content consumption (the total amount read by the total number of readers) is likely at an all time low.

  9. 9

    Now you see it spews:

    @8 “newspaper content consumption…is likely at an all time low.”

    Very true. There’s an entire community of debate over how to measure web site traffic. Yes, those are likely unique numbers. But should a ‘click’ to an article be counted as a “unique reader” in the same way as someone who buys the entire paper (individual or subscribes)? Almost certainly not. But how you measure a web visit is a tricky thing. There’s a lot of variations on doing it…and THAT’S what makes setting market rates of the web so tricky. Everyone you ask will give you a different method.

  10. 10

    Cato the Younger Younger spews:

    @6, Well our libraries in Seattle are closed for the next week so that kinda blows that idea out of the water. If you’re library is closed kinda makes it hard to read a free internet subscription to the Seattle Times.

    And once papers all go paperless, which they are going to, do you think that libaries will happily subscribe to all the local and national papers?

  11. 11

    SJ's Sockpuppet spews:

    @7 Mr. C

    Good post!

    I think a large part of the difficulty is the underlying concept the advertising should aubsidize news.

    We still buy the Sunday ST, but find there really is so little news that the only value mis the ads. The Stranger and the SW have MORE editorial content that the ST!

    I wonder if the best commercial answer might not be a more robust weekly newspaper with a daily website. The weekly could charge those of us who actually WANT to read about the news rather than just see headlines. One could choose e version vs paper, but I think ther would be a market for both.

  12. 12

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Goldy @ 8–
    I think you are right.
    This is one of those lame-brained exercises to try and convince advertisers they are relevant.
    I think all Times advertsiers ought to take out a one-line ad that shows their website….period.
    Most of the Realtors are now advertising OPEN HOUSES and showing their link…that’s it.
    Car Dealers have also cut waaaaaaaay back.

    Pretty soon, you’ll see other advertisers do the same.

    1.4 million sounds good.
    But the question is..
    How many really look at my ad??
    Not 1.4 million.
    I doubt if it’s even 4,000 for many ads.
    Waste of money.

    How many folks at HA comb thru the ads every Sunday??
    How many even subscribe to the Times??

  13. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Why wouldn’t Frank Blethen like monopolies? Didn’t he aspire for a long time to have one in the Seattle daily newspaper market? The laughable thing is, having a newspaper monopoly in 2009 is like having a buggy whip monopoly in 1905.

  14. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 “One of the really nasty side effects of hard core market place capitalism is that eventually all knowledge that at one point was public domain will become the private property of the corporations; only to be released to us petty people for a fee.”

    That’s not really a problem for the 38% of America’s population who could hardly become more ignorant than they already are.

  15. 16

    Now you see it spews:

    @10 “And once papers all go paperless, which they are going to, do you think that libaries will happily subscribe to all the local and national papers?”

    Yes. They do now. Well for newspapers they mostly still have the paper copies. But the Seattle library has online subscriptions to many many online databases. It’s a library dude. That’s what they do. It’s not JUST a collection of dusty Stephen King books. If you think a library is just a big warehouse full of dusty books, you haven’t been to a library since 1975.

    As for being closed? Yeah, if your city doesn’t want to fund the library and it closes (temp or perm) or your local newspaper goes out of business, then you’re out of luck. Go figure.

  16. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 (continued) If you use anything I just mentioned I will so totally sue your ass off right into the poor house!!

    So sue me for everything I’ve got! After you take my burrow, what will you do with it … live in it? Besides, I can dig a new hole in 20 minutes.

  17. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @5 Another fucking failure of the so-called free market.* Maybe what we need is for Congress to pass the Copyright Owners Protection Act of 2009 in order to regulate oligopolies like Google and Amazon. After all, this would merely be enforcing the existing legal rights that Congress gave to content creators decades ago.

    * In a capitalist system like ours, the term “free market” has several meanings. For one thing, it means giant corporations take other people’s stuff for free and then resell it for their own profit. Another meaning is that giant corporations are free to do whatever they want and everybody else has to do what they say. Another definition of “free” market is that if you’re big enough you’re free to break the law and nobody will do anything about it. And so on. Or, as Kurt Vonnegut would say, “And so it goes.”

  18. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 Judging from some of the folks I saw at Rep. Inslee’s townhall meeting yesterday, I doubt there’s 1.4 million people around here who can read, let alone 1.4 million who actually do read a newspaper.

  19. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @11 “I think a large part of the difficulty is the underlying concept the advertising should aubsidize news.”

    The underlying concept, which is a very old one, was created by people who bought printing presses to go into business as job shops that made their money by produced advertising circulars. At some point, they figured out that adding news content more than paid for itself because it got more people to read the advertisements.

    From this historical perspective, the news operation propped up the advertising business, not the other way around.

    For many people, the main reason to pay 25 cents for a newspaper was to get $5.00 of grocery coupons. Back in those days, buying the paper made rational economic sense for the newspaper consumer.

  20. 22

    SJ's Sockpuppet spews:

    @20 Roger

    Can you back this up?

    @11 “I think a large part of the difficulty is the underlying concept the advertising should aubsidize news.”

    The underlying concept, which is a very old one, was created by people who bought printing presses to go into business as job shops that made their money by produced advertising circulars. At some point, they figured out that adding news content more than paid for itself because it got more people to read the advertisements.

    Certainly printing and handbills both predate print advertising.

    I also wonder what role paid adverts paid in nthe pamphleteering that was important to the American & French revolutions?

    As for today’s ST, I utterly agree. I suspect it is little more than sport pages plus legal notices plus fish wrapper.

    HMMMMM ….

    If the paper bag initiative failed, maybe we could have one to tax the sale of paper newspapers?

    Of course, the ST would then claim that we were restricting free speech. BUT, our atttornies could then charge that the only content of the ST is fish wrapper and wrapping paper is not free speech?

  21. 23

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 9: I find it curious that so many disparage web-site advertising, claiming that “page views” don’t translate into “advertising views”.

    Few newspaper subscribers ever see every advertisement in the paper, or even a fraction of them. Although I read lots of newspapers online, I seldom will do more than give a cursory glance at four or five pages of a printed newspaper – and I disregarded ads entirely.

    Heck, one of the reasons we discontinued our print subscription to the Herald was that we never had time to open it up, and it went straight to the recycling bin. But you can be sure the Herald continued to urging it’s advertisors to buy ads based upon the assumption that most, if not all, subscribers saw their ads.

    But with internet advertising, there are considerably better tools available to measure ad performance. By measuring a “page view”, you know exactly how many people are reading a specific article on a specific page. Heck, with Google AdSence being strategically placed in several places on the page, you can even see if they made it all the way to the bottom of the page! And if they “click through” the add to get more information, you have a solid count of ad effectiveness, and even a sales lead for the advertisor.

    Advertising firms, which make a percentage of the amount of money their client spends on advertising, have claimed that the relatively low “click-through” percentages show that internet advertising (which they don’t control) is not very effective. But what they aren’t saying is that their own print and TV-based advertising is probably not any more effective – it’s just that print and TV effectiveness can’t be measured as well.

    (Note that Arbitron recently changed the way it measures radio audiences. Now they use an electronic meter which automatically picks up and records the radio station the person is listening to, regardless of their location. This replaces the old system of the person keeping diaries. This led to quite a few changes – in the Seattle market KTTH, Rush Limbaugh’s station, used to be ranked 4th. But under the new measuring system, it’s ranked 17th, between KOMO and KIRO-FM. Source: Arbitron now uses meter to measure radio listening)

  22. 25

    rhp6033 spews:

    Roger Rabbit’s on the right track (as usual). Owners of early printing presses in the American colonies first used their presses to publish pamplets and advertising bills for a fee. But there was never enough business of that sort to keep them busy. Since they already had a large investment in the printing press, type, shop, apprentice labor, etc., it made sense for them to invest just a bit more to buy some extra paper and ink to print out items of general interest and sell low-cost advertising to fill up the margins. This bacame the newspaper industry.

    As an aside, the position as “postmaster” of a colony became quite important. The postmaster would hire space on horses or wagons to carry the mail, but if there was any extra space (there usually was) they would have the postal rider carry as many newspapers as he could could squeeze in. At the same time, they would deny that priviledge to competing printers. Benjamin Franklin solidified his role as one of the most widely-read printers in the colonies through his position as postmaster.