Crawling the news

google

A few weeks ago, I had to read through a bunch of blogs and websites covering the UK newspaper industry. It made me feel very sorry for those guys. Basically, articles and posts on those websites fall into one of two categories. The first is “disastrous revenue reports/circulation figures” – any sign that the decline in these numbers is slowing is taken as a sign of hope these days. The second category may be called “where are you, new business model?”. One of the hot topics at the moment: news aggregators, in particular Google News. Newspaper websites like those links to their articles but they grow increasingly uncomfortable over Google taking their content for free. And Google has responded…

Suck it up

Undoubtedly, Google News produces a lot of traffic for newspaper websites, which they deeply cherish. Exploiting its powers, Google has been saying that those newspaper websites better be happy about that extra traffic, rather than complain about their content being re-published somewhere else.

Not only that. News websites feel the pressure to adjust their pages so that Google’s algorithm can find them more easily and place them higher up in the ranking.

Over recent months, UK newspapers have repeatedly knocked on Google’s door to ask for a share of all that money the company makes by aggregating other people’s news on their website.

Gasp!… Grrr!…

“Fine”, said Google. And so it decided to go down the appeasement route; to be nice to those publishers for a while. As some commentators have argued, Google did so because they realized that some news websites might not survive any longer unless they find new revenue streams.

Google News’ appeasement approach includes a new service called Fast Flip. For the first time on Google News, the websites providing the content will receive a share of the advertising revenue generated by Google. Of course, nobody know how big that share is, but still.

I’m sure that won’t be the end of the debate though. Fast Flip is only in its early development stages right now and it remains to be seen whether news providers will fall for it – or in some cases refuse to cooperate. 3am, a gossip website in the UK, recently decided to ignore whether Google News can handle its headlines. They returned to using “Ooh … Gasp! … Grrr! … Phwoar! … TeeHee!”, something the aggregator apparently cannot handle very well.

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