Who has the Moral High Road Google Search or News Media

Are publishers losing money because of Google and Google’s news service? Or are they becoming more profitable?

This week, The New York Times accused Google of this. It boils down to an industry report that appeared in the News Media Alliance – Voice of News Media Industry. Who are they? It is an industry group within the publishing news media.

Well, in this particular case, the News Media Alliance says, that Google earned nearly $5 billion in revenue by stealing news articles from them.

So how does that work?

If you search for something on Google, they will intermix some news articles in the search results and provide you with a little summary.

If you go to news.google com, You will see news stories on all kinds of topics, including your local news.

How do you get that information? Or I should say, how does Google get that information?

Well, they go out and do what is called scraping and scraping is an awful thing, frankly. Why? Well, it is mainly stealing stuff.

News Commentators vs. Writers vs. Journalists

So, let’s talk about what I do and what other news commentators do. You know, this is an editorial, Right? I’m a commentator on the news. I’m not a writer, and I’m certainly not a journalist. I’m a commentator, frankly. So when I’m looking at an article, you’ll hear me talk about it. So, for instance, I’m going to refer to some material from New York Magazine here. And they’ve got some great quotes in it, and I am commenting about it, perfectly legal, I can do all of that. What we are talking about is the Fair Use doctrine that’s in place, and it has been part of our copyright law, forever.

Well, how about Google? Is it fair use for Google to look through a news site, find an article, summarize that article using some machine learning algorithms.

Machine summaries

They use programs that rip thru these articles and summarize it, grabbing a sentence here and there, put it all together and put it up on their site.

Google did not write that article. Google may have written, you know, a little bit of the stuff they’re showing, but typically, they’re just stealing the paragraph or so from the article.

What do the courts say?

If you were not aware, the courts have heard arguments about this very thing, and the way the law stands right now is that Google has the right to do what they are doing because when you click on that search result, it takes you directly into the original site and the original article.

Deep Links and Impressions

You might remember the lawsuits that happened a few years back, on what they called, deep links. These were where various companies were saying, “No, no, no, We can’t link to an article,” you can only link to our homepage. That was because they wanted people to have the experience of going through their website.

Well, the experience of going through the website, of course, was to see the ads on their homepage, while you were trying to find the article you want to see.

By requiring you to go through a few other pages, they were collecting hits on these pages, which gave them more impressions. More impressions meant more ad revenue. Why? They base ad revenue on the number of impressions. It depends on the algorithm chosen, impressions vs. clicks. That is a different type of payment.

Well anyways, they were hoping they’d get more money. Eventually, those died out.

So it was decided, no, you can have a deep link, as I do.

I use deep links. It is where I refer to an article, and it says read more, typically, you click on that, bam, it takes you right over to the website that has a synopsis of the article or an editorial commentary and then a link to the original article itself.

According to the article, Google estimated that Google News or product without ads brought in an estimated 100 million dollars in yearly revenue back in 2008. Yes, eleven years ago.

It appears that they were playing fast and loose with that number, and extrapolated forward saying, well, that hundred million in revenue means an estimated 4.7 billion of revenue in 2018 to Google from news content.

Unfortunately, that is not how it works.

That is total crap. What does that $100 million number mean? Well, It was from Marissa Mayer, you might remember her, she floated that number at a conference when she was the head of Google search, a decade-plus ago.

What does it mean, frankly? Well, it means that Google estimated the value of its news service.

Now, remember, they’re not running ads, they’re not getting money directly off of that. What’s the back end?

The bottom line and a reality check

Well, here’s the bottom line on the back end, Google is showing news articles. They have them all there on the news.google.com site, and they’re putting them into the search results, as well.

The reality is that the traffic from Google search to news publishers sites has risen by more than 25%. Twenty-Five Percent.

Now, wait a minute. You’re complaining that Google is stealing your news articles, which yes, they are, technically. And you’re complaining that this is a massive $5 billion hit approximately, to your industry.

But yet, you also in this same press release from the News Media Alliance say that traffic from Google search to the publisher sites went up 25%?

Doesn’t that stat show that Google News is beneficial to these news organizations? I tend to think so. Frankly, I do.

Now you can’t deny that Facebook isn’t a significant influence out there. Along with YouTube, Hulu, and now Netflix and HBO, and all of these others that have great content available for cheap money.

They are not just losing traffic because Google is showing it on their news site. Perhaps, it’s because the eyeballs are going elsewhere. In the long run, Google is helping them.

I don’t know. It is all very confusing. I think maybe that’s part of the intention. However, it does not appear to be hurting the publishing business at all.