Should Newspapers Reject Google News Traffic? (GOOG)

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Techdirt asks Could Newspaper Owners Really Be This Clueless?:

Just as stories are hitting the press about slow-to-innovate newspapers finally embracing the internet comes the news that a bunch of newspapers [ed: The World Association of Newspapers] are quite upset that Google drives more traffic to their websites.

This isn't a first. Last year, AFP sued Google over the same issue -- and Google yanked AFP stories out of their news index. This meant that newspapers that carried AFP stories lost out on a lot of valuable traffic.

So, why are more newspapers trying to go down the same path? It would appear that like book publishers and telcos, they're all jealous of Google's ability to make money. The quotes from all three are almost identical. This latest one, from the newspapers is: "They're building a new medium on the backs of our industry, without paying for any of the content." But that's wrong. What Google is doing is making that content more valuable by making it easier to find. If the newspapers want to opt-out, that's fine -- but it ends up hurting them.

Further thoughts:

Carl Howe (Blackfriars Communications): Yesterday I published an article on deconstructing news in the attention economy claiming that newspapers need to identify and expand their audiences to survive. Today, Techdirt notes that now some newspaper owners are upset that Google is indexing their stories and photographs.

Yikes! This is a bit like complaining that doctors and dentists are putting newspapers in their waiting rooms. Google is driving traffic to newspaper Web sites to read their stories, yet newspapers are suing them to stop, or at least pay them. Next thing you know, newspapers will take a page from the RIAA and start suing their customers.

This situation is a great example of why new media news sites have a huge advantage over old media; they understand that more audience attention is good. Any new media news site loves Google because they increase their site traffic. More traffic means more ad views and more revenue. In fact, many sites optimize their pages and sites for better Google indexing. Why wouldn't newspapers want this?

I said yesterday that most newspapers underspend on marketing. This activity shows that some don't even understand the concept. Perhaps the best thing to say is that there is some Darwinian justice here. Those that don't understand marketing won't be around much longer.

The Stalwart: Apparently the answer to Techdirt's question is "yes, they are that stupid". But then again we already knew that, since so many newspapers' websites require registration forms, which probably turn off the majority of browsers. Given that everyone is looking at the internet side of the newspaper business, hoping against hope, that somehow their web presences will allow them to survive a few more years, it's beyond baffling that they'd sue the very company that probably drives more traffic to them than any other source.

As any blogger can attest, our archives would never get read if it weren't for search engines. However, because of search engines, the archives get read all the time, and more readers=more ad revenue (duh). In fact, there's no question that appearing on Google is extremely valuable for a company. Just consider the fact that for any search, there are companies paying hand-over-fist for little text ads that appear next to the search results. The actual search results get this exposure for free.

We've been defenders of old media in the past. In terms of the newspapers, we think that some of their local sites have a good opportunity to become well-trafficked local portals, where people search for job, weather, and movie information, as well as news. But the management (and we'll give them the benefit of the doubt that it's the lawyers telling them they have to do this) seems hell bent on closing off these opportunities. Perhaps there's something huge here that we're not considering, and if so, we'd like to know what it is.

But really, this just looks like a dumb move.