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What Happens If Content Players Start Pushing Back At Google?

Posted by: Jon Fine on January 12, 2006

With something other than lawsuits, that is.

I’ve laid out some of my thoughts on that prospect here.

What are yours?

Reader Comments

Scott Karp

January 13, 2006 12:05 AM

Jon, I think you're half right. There is a backlash coming. But the backlash is not coming from "Old Media." It's coming from consumers drowning in a sea of media choices (the blogosphere being the perfect storm). Consumers are going to rebel against infinite choices (and infinite RSS feeds) and cling to the life preserver of traditional media outlets. Google helps people find what they’re looking for. But people don’t always know what they want (or when they want it). Even if the old media brands die off, a new hegemony will take their place.

Would love to know what you think of the rest of this run of argument:

Jack Yan

January 13, 2006 6:01 AM

Jon, when I first heard about the New Century Network in 1995, I had just started internet publishing, and thought it was a great idea for the establishment. Eleven years on, I still think it’s doable, albeit adapted. I think you could have reminded them about robots.txt and banding together. For instance, if paid archives were mentioned in 2000, we would have laughed. Now, we just swallow that and some of us consider it. Times are a-changin’, and what seemed like anathema then might look like a great revenue stream today.

Bruce Braun

January 13, 2006 1:35 PM

The problem for Google will be not so much with the studios that own the shows but with all the guilds: SAG,DGA,WGA etc. The guilds will want contracts revised so their members get a piece of the action. This will also impact mobisodes on your mobile phone.

Like everything else, it all comes down to the money.

The low initial prices will go up faster than a T-3 line renders a web page!

Carl Buhlman

January 13, 2006 4:11 PM

I think what would be more revolutionary is for the Newpapers to get together and begin charging internet portals like Yahoo, AOL etc for use of their material.
The AP is doing nothing but giving away all their content. The Newspapers don't have to do this. They don't have to continue to let the tail wag the dog.

Its time for those that OWN the intellectual property to leverage and monetize it.

Jack Yan

January 13, 2006 10:28 PM

Further to my earlier comment, if there is a charge by an NCN-like group of 104 newspapers, there will be one difference now: amateur journalists and the likes of OhmyNews. Will that simply encourage people to go to these sites?

Paul Bucalo

January 14, 2006 8:21 AM

It's not as easy as walling off the content. Many newspaper Web sites, the AP included, received 30 percent of their traffic from Google querries.
Yahoo! on the other hand, pays for an AP, Reuters and AFP subscription just like any traditional news operation.
Many newspapers give their RSS headlines to Yahoo! to display for free because of the laerge amount of traffic it produces.
Further, the best way to monetize the news stories, to date, is to aggregate eye-balls for advertising.
The subscription model doesn't work for newspaper content. In order to remain viable, newspapers have to attract the next generation of readers. They just aren't going to pay. The only way to attract the younger demographic is to provide the content for free.
If the pay model worked, and CNN would still be charging and Dow Jones wouldn't have purchased Market Watch.

not real

January 15, 2006 8:30 PM

Why would anyone believe a thing you say when you are so obviously bought and paid for by the big media money whores to spew out their lies.
Most of what you time-warner loosers do is just the applications of operant conditioning techniques and has nothing to do with anything real or newsworthy.
Reading your magazines is only needed to scan the lies that you people put out just so I can keep abrest of your constant attempts at missinforming the public so you peddle your dubious content based schemes.

You are currupt and very much an embarrassment to real journalists

not real

January 15, 2006 8:31 PM

Why would anyone believe a thing you say when you are so obviously bought and paid for by the big media money whores to spew out their lies.
Most of what you time-warner loosers do is just the applications of operant conditioning techniques and has nothing to do with anything real or newsworthy.
Reading your magazines is only needed to scan the lies that you people put out just so I can keep abrest of your constant attempts at missinforming the public so you peddle your dubious content based schemes.

You are currupt and very much an embarrassment to real journalists

Stephen Wheeler

January 16, 2006 11:50 AM

Jon, You did not go into why Art Howe said "I'm trying to think of someone who isn't under siege," [speaking of Old Media companies]. Perhaps that's because to most Media Industry observers the reasons are obvious?

Not pretending to be enlightened (more; As I see it):
- Media has turned more and more to commercial structures for governance post WWII.

- Post WWII most people began to enjoy the fruits of more personal time - their attention, viewed as a resource, became super-abundant.

- Old (non-Net) Media markets have identifiable monopoloy, or oligopoly, constraints.

- Result: The industry was viewed more and more often as a way to make money.

- Commercal constraints on Media created a drive to cut costs and improve RoI.

- Thus: Old Media has become reliant on what can be marketed; Populist (i.e. Low-Brow) with the emphasis on brands and blockbusters.

- Media enjoyed a golden era where the limits to attention were forgotten and;

- Unintended consequence 1: The value of citizens' attention and gestures was forgotten (apathy over citizens' ability to move the political agenda - and therefore with politics in general - is a symptom).

- Unintended consequence 2: Old Media markets fragment as consumers seek choice and freedom from 'editorial'

- An attention deficit created, in part, by Old Media's support for long working hours and their constant undermining of the Family plus market fragmentation creates a New World where attention is in short supply (Old Media under siege).

- Unintended consequence 3: Old Media creates a vacuum and, when new technology invents a new medium, they struggle.

The reality is that people were waking up to the fact that Old Media does not give them what they need or want before the Net came along, but the Net has magnified their problems AND created a new industry direction.

If Old Media builds a wall around itself I can think of no better way of ensuring that they they finally cut themselves off completely from future generation revenues...

Charging search engines for their content is a 'base over apex' move if ever I heard one. My father (72) is the only member of my family who still pays for, and reads, a newspaper every week - and that has been the case for more than ten years... Except for my Mother (who favors radio) the rest of us read Net content more than we watch TV or listen to the radio - by and large attracted to brands that did not exist in 1996... I believe my family is unexceptional in this regard.

For more on how the attention/gesture landscape is shaping up I suggest you add
to your reading list.

Net Content is clearly not associated with commercial purchases - as you so rightly pointed out. The whole idea of advertising and content appearing together is a centuries-old legacy of the newspaper industry (when advertising of any kind was difficult and expensive) and the link has always been tenuous at best. This suggests to me that restricting search engines' access to Old Media content is a dumb move - it will give on-line brands a shot in the arm, and break the 'connection' between traditional content and commercial return paths - thus further undermining the so-called mega-media-brands completely.

However, there is a downside. An Old Media backlash against the Net will delay the much needed review of copyright, will divert Net investment into copyright protection mechanisms (technology, goverment regulation, and policing copyrights), and will disenfranchise millions.

Perhaps I failed to mention: Most of my family are well educated. We've made the switch to the Net because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But what about the less well off? Coach Potatoes will welcome Old Media's 'walled gardens' because they offer 'protection' (from the threats that are hyped by Old Media) and content that requires little or no input from them - that's what they want. Thus; Old Media will create a backlash and they will make money out of it in the short term.

There is a way out of this, but it requires that Old Media Barons actually believe that the World around them has changed - and that they need to adapt. Just because attention is becoming scarce does not mean that there is no place for large production and marketing organizations. But it does mean that Media Magnates have to give a little; They have to give back a little of their power to set the agenda and to debate, they have to give back a little money (recognizing that our attention has value), and they have a potential role in helping attention and gesture banks value atention and gestures. They have to accept that the link between content and advertising is a happy coincidence, and the drop in revenues and margins that goes with these things.

In the medium term Old Media are going to be like a cornered, injured, Tiger. The backlash will not recreate the World as they knew it, and they will lash out. There is a severe danger that if the Media Barons hold the line together this time they will still be very upset when they discover (as above) that it isn't working... Sadly, these people, though unelected, hold great power. The damage they might do is incalculable.

In the long term, assuming we can see past the damage the Old Media seem likely to visit on a free speech society, their World will pass into history.

Stephen Wheeler

January 17, 2006 5:57 AM


I posted here yesterday - I got a message back saying post received and evrything.

But no post appeared?

I spent some time on my post, so I'm kind of upset...

Bruce Dobie

January 17, 2006 1:56 PM

Regarding the quotation from Art Howe, newspaperman turned wireless exec, is this the Art Howe formerly of the Phil Inquirer and then various alt weeklies?

Jon Fine

January 17, 2006 2:05 PM


Yup. Same Art Howe.


Carl Buhlman

January 18, 2006 2:52 PM

I maintain in my earlier comment that the newspaper industry OWNS the content. Without it, the internet portals are screwed.
The AP is doing nothing more than taking advantage of the newspapers by essentially giving this content away. Let's remember, the AP is not "working" for the newspapers, they have their hands in all media.

The NAA has got to get it together and better monetize this "relationship"

Classic example of the tail wagging the dog.

SF Media Enthusiast

January 20, 2006 4:35 AM


This is a great overview of a very serious challenge for the large and small media operations. Walling in content is an old media answer which doesn't address the realities or opportunities of the new media economy.

The real solution rests not with becoming an island of content but to innovate and invest in technologies that forge deeper, direct ties to readers and online advertisers.


January 24, 2006 9:10 AM

Someday we will all laugh about how stupid all of this last-gasp-holding-on-to-the-past.

It will all look so obvious when . . . the publisher maintains the content on its website, exclusively, and charges for it. The publisher makes affiliate deals with the millions of sites out there with relevant audiences. The affiliate sites bid-up key words on search sites so they get the biggest share of the affiliate deals. Sponsors who sponsor content for a discount or for free will be exposed to only the audiences seeking that content and can focus their message on the most relevant and compelling points to that audience.

The model is proven., IPod sell content. Amazon was built on affiliate deals. Search engines are making tons of money on affiliates bidding for key words right now. Sponsors have been seeking an efficient way to do lifestyle/more relevant advertising for decades. There will be plenty of money to go around for everyone.

Chuck Weller

January 25, 2006 1:18 PM

"Putting the Screws on Google" (1-23-06) as described would raise serious antitrust issues, which probably explains why it has not happened and means it is unlikely to happen.

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