RealClearPolitics Media Watch

« AP Readies for War with Aggregators | Media Watch Home Page | New York Times on the Brink »

Google Bites Back, But Gently

Talk about awkward.

One day after AP Chairman Dean Singleton kicked up a maelstrom, threatening a war between newspapers and aggregators, alluding to but without naming Google, Eric Schmidt had to address this same "mad as hell" crowd at the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) convention in San Diego.

In his keynote speech, the Google CEO claimed he was "confused" by the brouhaha, and pointedly mentioned his company's multimillion dollar deal to host and use AP's content. But more critically, he echoed the thinking by anyone who's seen the handwriting on the wall - blow up the obsolete business model:

"It's obvious to me that the majority of the circulation of a newspaper should be online, rather than printed. There should be five times, 10 times more circulation because there's no distribution cost. It doesn't cost anything to read it online from an end user perspective.

"I would start with -- My diagnosis is: how do we get to 10 times more readers online? What do they want to see? What is their style? My own bias, by the way, is a technology one: I think the sites are slow. They literally are not fast. They're actually slower than reading the paper, and that's something that can be worked on on a technical basis."

(His entire speech may be heard here)

Schmidt's other suggestions included - don't "piss off" the readers, think of the next act and still look to advertising as the primary revenue source.

While Schmidt was busy making nice with the NAA, his charges up north in Mountain View wasted little time in defending Google's legal position against the AP's challenge over fair use. But one media critic really took the gloves off.

Jeff Jarvis, a former New York Daily News Sunday editor who now considers himself more of a blogger, wrote a scathing commentary on his blog BuzzMachine, excoriating the newspaper business. The point in "The Speech the NAA Should Hear"? You blew it:

The public should be angry with you for the poor stewardship you have exercised over the press and its service to society. Your journalists are angry at you for losing their jobs. Your pressmen and drivers and classified-ad takers are angry at you for the same reason (and at the journalists for paying attention only to their own plight). Your advertisers were angry at you for using your monopolistic power to overcharge them and for providing inefficient platforms and bad service for so long. But they're not angry anymore because they left you for better advertising vehicles and better prices in a competitive marketplace.

But you're the ones who are acting angry.

Yesterday, you delivered a foot-stomping little hissy fit over Google and aggregators. How dare they link to you and not pay you? Oh, I so want Eric Schmidt to tell you today that you're getting your wish and that Google will no longer link to you. Beware what you wish for. You'd lose a third of your traffic overnight. If other aggregators (I work with one) and bloggers (I am one) and Facebook all decided to follow suit, you'd lose half your traffic. On most of your sites, only 20 percent of the audience in a day ever sees your homepage and its careful packaging; 4 of 5 readers instead come in through search and links. In the link economy - instead of the outmoded content economy in which you operate - Google and aggregators and bloggers are bringing value to you; they should be charging you for the value they bring. You should rise up today and give Mr. Schmidt a big thank you for not charging you. But you won't, because you've refused to understand this new business reality.

You blew it.