By Sudarsha Rambaran, Value Art+Com Fellow, Mainz
• Learn why Google is de facto a vital source of promotion for newspapers, rather than “the enemy“.
• Newspapers no longer have a mass market, but a new niche. Discover it!
• What a lot of newspapers think Google is doing vs. what they are actually doing.
Five years ago, in an interview with Horizont, media expert and author of “What would Google do?” Jeff Jarvis made some visionary comments about the future of the newspaper industry. He stated that society is being massively restructured because of the internet, however, Google is not the instigator of this process as many believe, but rather a result of it. These days, if you cannot be searched on the net, you cannot be found. The mass market for newspapers may be dead, but there is still a niche for them in the world. The news itself must change: it has to be tailored to target audiences, which is why regional newspapers can benefit so much from Google. Google itself is currently changing their whole marketing approach. They are concentrating on making the advertising relevant to local markets by personalizing the stories (nice example here). They no longer want to mass produce messages that work on a global level, and it’s working brilliantly!
The advantages of the online world for newspapers are many; low costs, cheap distribution, fast updates, and discussions with the readers. There was the nice example with the New York Times. They took down the paywall on their site and their internet traffic rose by 40%, which started a snowball effect: they earned more money from advertisements, and they moved up the list on the Google search page, which led to even more readers.
Currently, the German regional newspapers are rebelling against Google, because they believe it doesn’t help their sites, especially on the Google News side. One prominent example of this is the “Braunschweiger Zeitung”, which has abandoned the Google News feature. Their reasoning for this, in my opinion, made little sense: they wanted to show their confidence and independence from Google. They also want Google News to suffer for it; if many regional newspapers leave it, Google will have a problem. Yet in reality it would be their problem if they can’t be found! The whole story reminded me of this:
On the other hand, the Zeitung went about this in a clever way, as they started a massive marketing campaign in order to raise awareness and advertise the newspaper. However, They could have done the marketing campaign without leaving Google, and Google would only have supported it! The marketing campaign did increase the visits to their website by 27%, though, but I still don’t see how leaving Google helped with this.
So the big question we asked ourselves here was: why blame Google for the decline of the newspaper industry when all it’s doing is helping? (And why not Twitter, which would have made far more sense?). The facts:
- Google is a great source of promotion. We send online news publishers a billion clicks a month from Google News and more than three billion extra visits from our other services, such as Web Search and iGoogle. That is 100,000 opportunities a minute to win loyal readers and generate revenue—for free.
- In terms of copyright, another bone of contention, we only show a headline and a couple of lines from each story. If readers want to read on they have to click through to the newspaper’s Web site. (The exception are stories we host through a licensing agreement with news services.) And if they wish, publishers can remove their content from our search index, or from Google News.
- The claim that we’re making big profits on the back of newspapers also misrepresents the reality. In search, we make our money primarily from advertisements for products. Someone types in digital camera and gets ads for digital cameras. A typical news search—for Afghanistan, say—may generate few if any ads. The revenue generated from the ads shown alongside news search queries is a tiny fraction of our search revenue.
It all speaks for itself, really.