Google Didn’t Kill Newspapers. Newspapers Did

Damn Google for giving us a bad business model.

Damn Google for giving us a bad business model.

When the ship is sinking a captain can try two different approaches:

  • Abandon ship and blame everyone else for the tragedy
  • Try everything in his power to save the passengers and crew on board

It looks like Les Hinton, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, has decided on the blame game.  This is from Crain’s New York Business:

“In a keynote speech at the annual PricewaterhouseCoopers Entertainment and Media Outlook event Tuesday, Dow Jones Chief Executive Les Hinton raised the rhetoric a notch, calling the [Google] a vampire “sucking the blood” out of the newspaper business, and promised that new developments would level the playing field.”

The idea that Google is killing the newspaper industry is starting to sound a lot like the Bush administration’s rhetoric that Iraq was filled to the brim with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons ready to wipe out entire countries.  That turned out to be false.  So is the notion of Google “sucking the blood” out of newspapers.  But just like the Bush administration, newspaper publishers hope that if they say it enough times – maybe people will begin to believe it.

Hinton promises that Dow Jones will be announcing a “platform” for newspapers so they can capitalize and profit from their online content.  You might recall that back in April the Associated Press also threatened to build a technology “portal” to compete with Google.  We’re still waiting for that launch.  Is this really the direction news gathering outlets should be heading in?  Do they really want to compete directly with technology companies by trying to build new technology?

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Wall Street Journal is going to able to out Google Google.  But I guess we’ll have to see what Hinton has in mind when he announces his “platform.”

There’s little doubt that Google is a dangerous company in many ways (mostly because of all the private data it collects on all of us).  But one thing we can’t blame on Google is the demise of newspapers.  The newspaper industry did that all on their own by over leveraging themselves and failing to recognize the power of web. It’s not Google’s fault that newspapers decided as a collective to give away their content on the web – without building a profitable revenue model around it.

Yes, Google searches for information on the web – and sells advertising around those search results.  But if newspapers don’t want their content found and categorized by Google – it is possible to opt out (heck, China blocks Google searches all the time).  So if Google is killing newspapers then why aren’t more newspapers opting out or putting their content behind firewalls?  Here’s why.  Google sends approximately 19 percent of all traffic to newspaper sites.  That’s one-fifth of their readers.  Get rid of Google search and that’s a lot of readers getting information elsewhere.

It’s time for the newspaper industry to stop pointing fingers and start innovating.  If they don’t begin exploring new models and figuring out how to monetize the web – then they will be out of business soon.  And it won’t be Google’s fault.  A business model that hinges on delivering a printed copy of news to people once a day in the age of instant communications just isn’t a model that can survive.

Time for newsapers to start thinking and stop blaming.  After all, the blame lies with them.

3 Responses to “Google Didn’t Kill Newspapers. Newspapers Did”

  1. I don’t think newspaper publishers are blaming Google as much as their seeking a piece of the pie. It’s an issue of commerce, and similar arguments have been around forever.

    And I’m guessing you don’t like George Bush. Not sure where to file this column, politics or business?


  2. Edit: “they are”

  3. Hey Elfie:
    I believe I’m just stating the facts on how the Bush administration handled Iraq…

    A piece of what pie? Google sells ads around it’s search. Why should all the companies that come up in search get a cut of that? How could that possibly work?

    Google also provides “alerts” on search terms and sell ads for that – but they just aggregate “free” content on the web and deliver it to inboxes. Why should companies in the alerts get paid for content they are placing on the web for free?

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