Adam T. Vaccaro

Occasional musings on journalism and media

Denying Google

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Last week:

Brazil’s National Association of Newspapers says all 154 members had followed its recommendation to ban the search engine aggregator from using their content.

The papers say Google News refused to pay for content and was driving traffic away from their websites.

This week:

According to the National Association of Newspapers in Brazil (or ANJ in Portuguese), members that followed the association’s recommendation to abandon Google News have seen a decrease in web traffic of only 5 percent.

“The (newspapers) themselves believed that the 5-percent loss was a price worth paying to defend our authors’ rights and our brands,” said Ricardo Pedreira, ANJ’s executive director in a phone interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

The papers apparently see the small loss of traffic — 5 percent — as encouraging, but I don’t see how a loss of any traffic can be considered a good thing. But they said lost traffic was the reason they were making the change in the first place and are now saying a minimal loss of traffic is a success. I’m confused. What exactly was the point?

If Google News hurt journalism, it happened years ago and we’re not going back. I don’t see how this is a winning proposition unless traffic were to somehow go up. If it’s going down, then the publishers were wrong. I fail to see the value of the principle the papers are standing on — that by getting off Google News they’re protecting their claim to their work. If it means less people ultimately see the work, then what’s the point?

Imagine a football team losing by seven with 15 seconds left, and it’s fourth down. The team punts because it is against going for fourth down conversions on principle. Okay, they stood up for what they believed in. But they still lose. (And are open to bloggers’ criticisms as a result.) It’s not just a lost game, either. It’s hard to see any longterm benefit to punting there — except possibly to realize the futility of the decision and not make it again.

Small sample size, though. We’ll need a lot more data before anyone can say what the decision to scorn the almighty Church of Search means or accomplishes. Perhaps the benefits of dropping Google News, if there are any, will be seen down the road.

I guess the intention might be to ultimately leverage Google into having to pay to list the headline and summary, but I have a hard time believing Google values Google News as a portal to the point that they’d put a lot of money into it.


Written by Adam T. Vaccaro

October 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Commentary

Tagged with , ,

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