24. Does Google help publishers more than it hurts them? Google News automatically crawls the Internet, scrapes articles, organizes them and presents snippets on news.google.com (and as part of some search results). For some users, their need for news is satiated there, and they don’t visit the publishers’ websites themselves (and thus aren’t exposed to their ads). Other users continue to the publishers’ websites, giving them traffic and thus revenue.

Some publishers, led by Axel Springer in Europe — where Google News is particularly influential — feel Google should pay them for using their content, and they’re looking to the law to make it happen. Google News allows publishers to block its bot from crawling their website.

Does Google owe anything to publishers? Do publishers need Google more than Google needs them, or vice versa? Do social media companies pose the same challenge?

Are publishers doomed by aggregation, either by search companies or social media? Can publishers do anything about it? Do they have to resort to legislation?

Axel Springer, Losing Web Traffic, Bows to Google on Content

By Wall Street Journal (Archibald Preuschat)

November 5, 2014

German media company Axel Springer has backed off its demands that Google Inc. pay for access to some of its content, bowing instead to the U.S. Internet giant after restricted access caused traffic to plunge.

Springer, one of Google’s most outspoken critics in Europe, said continuing to limit Google’s access to four of its websites would have cost each of them tens of thousands of euros in revenue every year. The company has now granted Google a free license to use the content from welt.de, computerbild.de, sportbild.de and autobild.de.

German law requires Google to secure the rights to publish any content other than links to articles and headlines. Google refused to pay for those rights, instead asking publishers to offer them free of charge or have their snippets and thumbnails removed from its services. While some publishers agreed, Springer demanded payment.

…. Search-engine traffic to the Springer sites dropped about 40%, while traffic from Google’s Google News page site plunged 80%.

“As sad as it is, at least now we know precisely how enormous the consequences of discriminating are, how Google’s market power really plays out, and how Google punishes those who exercise the right” to protect content, said Springer Chief Executive Mathias Doepfner.

Google said it was pleased with Springer’s change of heart.

“It’s great to have snippets for Springer’s publications back in Google,” the company said in an emailed statement. A spokesman said Springer was the only German publisher that had held out for payment, and stressed Google’s role in promoting publishers’ websites and increasing their readership and revenue.

“We send over 500 million clicks to German publishers each month and our advertising partnerships have generated more than €1 billion [$1.25 billion] in revenue for them in the last three years,” the company said.

Mathias Döpfner, digital counterrevolutionary

By Columbia Journalism Review (Corey Pein)

November 20, 2014

Döpfner, 51, is the chief executive of Axel Springer, Europe’s largest publishing company.

it wasn’t until last spring that Döpfner picked the fight that made him a kind of international spokesman for the organized resistance to Big Tech.

Döpfner’s blunt response caused an international stir. His arguments sounded more like a fervid dispatch from Julian Assange than a careful statement from an international media tycoon. “We are afraid of Google,” Döpfner wrote. “I must state this very clearly and frankly, because few of my colleagues dare do so publicly.”

He claimed that Google, with its investments in drone fleets, internet-enabled appliances, and driverless cars, wants to build a “superstate that can navigate its floating kingdom undisturbed by any and all nation-states and their laws.”

“Will technology companies be the new and only distributor of content?” he said in a keynote at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in August. “Will they control the process of weighing and evaluating events? Or will the traditional publishing houses manage to uphold the traditional journalistic code as a competitive advantage?”

Corey Pein interviewed Döpfner for CJR in October at his offices in Berlin. … (A month later, Axel lost a round when it was forced to opt back in to Google News after it’s Web traffic plummeted.)

Dopfner: …Another example is Politico. We have agreed to roll out Politico in Europe, based on a joint venture. Look at Politico. Today it is one of the most influential platforms for political journalism in the United States. It employs 350 people [Politico confirms “more than 300”]. It’s a serious source of credible and trustworthy and relevant journalism, and it’s basically all digital. I think journalism has tremendous opportunities if we, the publishers and the journalists, are doing our job right.

Politico is somewhat peculiar to the insider culture of DC. What makes you think that will work in Europe? Politico started in Washington with an approach that said, “We want to be on the office desks of the 10 most relevant people in Washington. If we reach them, we will sooner or later reach the 100,000 most influential people interested in politics, and then it can become a huge brand and a serious business.” Of course, Washington politics is not a mass-market interest in the United States. But the crowd that is interested in that is large enough to build an important brand. And now in Europe I think the need is even greater. You have Brussels at the political center, and 28 member countries that are represented there. You have people in the member countries of the EU, and in countries that may want to become a member, or do not want to become a member. So there is a huge interest in what is happening in Brussels and in the political centers of these member countries, and there is not a European platform to capture that. So I think [Politico Europe] has the potential also to broaden and be a comparable success. But of course we have to see.

Spanish newspapers beg for help as Google News closure looms

By Gigaom (David Meyer)

December 15, 2014

Having lobbied hard for a Spanish law that forces Google to pay royalties for using snippets of articles in its News service, and having since seen the company say it would shut down Google News in Spain because it doesn’t make money off it anyway, Spain’s publishers are now trying to stop that closure.

The Spanish Association of Daily Newspaper Publishers (AEDE) said in a statement late last week that “the closure of Google News…is not equivalent to the closing of another service given its dominant position in the market and will undoubtedly have a negative impact on Spanish citizens and businesses.”

AEDE said it therefore “requires the intervention of the Spanish and EU authorities, and of competition authorities to effectively protect the rights of citizens and businesses.”

Google News is due to close its Spanish doors on Tuesday. The intellectual property law (again, fought for by AEDE) is too inflexible for the publishers to be able to grant Google free use of text snippets and image thumbnails — as happened in Germany.

There’s no questioning the fact that Google is, as the statement also notes, “the true gateway to the internet” in Europe, where it has more than a 90 percent share of the search market. …

How much of your news site’s search traffic comes from Google News? Probably 5 to 25 percent

By Nieman Lab (Joshua Benton)

December 9, 2014

Google and publishers have a fraught relationship, and plenty have given thought to what it would be like to pull out of one or both Google corpora. (Axel Springer found out.) But how important is each to your overall search traffic? Is it your site’s presence in Google that’s driving it, or its presence in Google News?

… the broad majority of sites seem to be in that 5 to 25 percent range — meaning Google News makes up a significant but not overwhelming part of most sites’ search traffic.

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