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We Don't Want a Traffic Jam?
October 19, 2012 10:21 AM   Subscribe

You want us to pay you for directing eyeballs to your sites? Newspaper publishers in France want a law whereby Google (and other search engine services) have to pay for each click made from the search engine to their sites. You click on a link to a French newspaper site from a search engine, the Search Engine has to pay the newspaper for that click. If the law is passed it's likely Google will no longer include links to French sites that require payment for said links.
posted by juiceCake (107 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
If the law is passed it's likely Google will no longer include links to French sites that require payment for said links.

That would be the sensible course of action on Google's part, yes.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:23 AM on October 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


And the Capitalized Internet begins to devour itself....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:23 AM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


If the French are that willing to bite the hand that feeds them, maybe they should start their own Internet, avec le blackjack et des putes.
posted by tommasz at 10:27 AM on October 19, 2012 [37 favorites]


This sort-of reminded of a piece in the Guardian recently: A £2-a-month levy on broadband could save our newspapers.

Raising extra revenue from net use to subsidize a failing, and often net-hostile, industry? I'm sure that will go down well.
posted by Wordshore at 10:29 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"French newspaper publishers have been pushing for the law, saying it is unfair that Google receives advertising revenue from searches for news."

...But surely Google is contributing value to consumers of news in exchange for the eyeballs that generate the add revenue. There is a reason why when most people want to find news on a particular topic they don't go straight for the website of a newspaper - even their favorite one.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:30 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Newwspaper publishers in France want a law whereby better, stronger straws at which to grasp."
posted by griphus at 10:32 AM on October 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


If the French are that willing to bite the hand that feeds them, maybe they should start their own Internet...

Indeed. Or bring back their old Internet 0.1, if they can track down some old terminals and dust them off.
posted by Wordshore at 10:32 AM on October 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't quite understand. Are they saying that the snippet of an article that Google returns is copyrighted and they have to pay for it? If this is true, then shouldn't Google pay for all results, and not just the ones which are clicked on? That would severely limit what search engines could do. They would be forced to return results only with the name of the website, indicating that such a story could be found there, but with no idea of what it contains. Looking for something online would become long-winded and annoying.
posted by Jehan at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2012


For every rotation of this so-called "combustive" engine, a ha'penny will tickle your local smithy's coffers! This will certainly support the hardworking men who've shod our noble steeds during this brief downturn.
posted by mhoye at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2012 [26 favorites]


This sort-of reminded of a piece in the Guardian recently: A £2-a-month levy on broadband could save our newspapers.

Think of all the levies we'll need, for all the industries. Broadband subscriptions are going to get awfully even more expensive.
posted by dng at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2012


This puzzles me. Is there any perspective from which this makes any sense at all? I can see someone suggesting this off-the-cuff, or an ignorant politician, but can the people who run the papers be this ignorant?

Is this not a suicidal demand? Does Google stand to lose remotely as much from not cataloging French sites as the French sites do?
posted by straight at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


The only way I can kajigger this proposal in my head so it makes any sense at all is that its advocates want France's economy to tank enough that it can get some of those sweet, sweet austerity euros.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Are they saying that the snippet of an article that Google returns is copyrighted and they have to pay for it?

I think the core of their argument is that Google is making money of their content in virtue of being able to include it in their aggregation, and owes them some skim. The former part is obviously true, the latter, not so much in reality.
posted by fatbird at 10:34 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't know why France is such big news.

Brazil has already done it.

Germany is doing something similar too.
posted by vacapinta at 10:35 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


it is unfair that Google receives advertising revenue from searches for news

And yet I doubt these French newspapers are going to start paying royalties to the subjects of their news coverage—off of whom they make their money.

It never stops amazing me how, when the subject is the Internet, people so wholeheartedly abandon the common sense that they presumably exhibit in other contexts.
posted by enn at 10:35 AM on October 19, 2012 [25 favorites]


Belgian newspapers already tried this shit. Didn't work so good.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:36 AM on October 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


In related news, the Democratic Republic of Augiestan has passed a law whereby all of you must pay me royalties for having gleaned information and/or amusement (however immeasurably small) from reading this comment.
posted by AugieAugustus at 10:39 AM on October 19, 2012


I think the core of their argument is that Google is making money of their content in virtue of being able to include it in their aggregation, and owes them some skim. The former part is obviously true, the latter, not so much in reality.
Google should then say that the .0001c that they've charged an advertiser for appearing at the head of a search result will be split between the 120,000,000 websites returned. Send everybody a dollar a year, and let them keep the change.
posted by Jehan at 10:40 AM on October 19, 2012


From vacapinta's first link:

For Brazilian news companies, the number of visits that arrive from Google News has not been enough to justify the use of their headlines without receiving payment.

Counter-intuitive, but possibly true? Or just a bluff?
posted by straight at 10:41 AM on October 19, 2012


The reason for it is Google's change of strategy on news last year - which you might have noticed as your search term not being transferable form the main search when you click on the news tab. It further turns much of the news space into a commodity, and turns publishers against one another. It's a monumental change and for those of us used to the idea that Google is just a conduit to delivering traffic, Google knows that the business model has shifted.

What the article misses is that Google also faces a boycott from Brazilian newspapers. The money quote is: "It would be absurd for a restaurant to tax a cab driver for taking tourists to eat there." It is somewhat disengenuous.

It's arguably pyrrhic victory for French publishers because they're not going to get *more* traffic from this. But strategically that isn't the point: like Murdoch putting the whole of the Times behind the paywall, this is about capturing value from the x% of news customers that will pay a premium. Not all the French newspapers will ride out the Google ban. I would guess some will die and some will go fully the other way and chase the eyeballs for ad revenue.

Ultimately, what we'll see is the number of newspapers reduce, but the ones that remain will do so at a profit. Hence the two business models - easy to see in the UK: Paywalled garden (Times) and linkwhore adbait (Daily Mail) - the rest of the papers can either take a position or die a slow death.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:42 AM on October 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Shouldn't websites which are found via Google searches pay Google a percentage of whatever their ad revenue is? A finders fee?
posted by muddgirl at 10:42 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Once they've legislated away all of their traffic they will surely celebrate this fine idea.
posted by braksandwich at 10:45 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I squint really hard I can kind of see the newspapers' point. They would like nothing better than for you to spend 15 minutes clicking around their website looking for content and being delivered ads all the while. With Google, maybe you spend 1 minute reading the one article you want but see only one ad. Instead you are seeing Google's ads. Google has therefore supplanted the newspapers' own index using the newspapers' content but delivering Google's ads.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:47 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is there any perspective from which this makes any sense at all?

Sure, it's the same basic mentality all content owners who want a cut from the money-making entities of the internet (e.g. music industry arguing for some version of a basic "bandwidth tax" to defray all piracy). The argument (if you're trying to see it from their perspective), I think is this:

"We produce content that has a value, you can tell it has a value because people look for it and then want to see it. Google finds and delivers it because doing so is a core business that they profit from. But this model has disrupted our revenue model and we're not able to recover enough from online consumers of our product to be solvent, so Google needs to recognize that they profit by the value of our content an cut us in on part of that revenue."

Now whether anyone with a shred of objectivity can buy that is another thing Where it falls down of course is that one can respond, well nobody is forcing you to make your content available online and moreover if you tell Google not to include your content in its search results it will stop doing so, and you can just work your old revenue model, at which point the content owners are forced to allow that no, their old model is irrevocably broken regardless of whether Google or indeed the internet is involved or not.
posted by nanojath at 10:50 AM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Newspapers started dying long before the Internet. How many daily papers did big cities have in 1970? A lot more than in 1995. There used to be multiple editions per day, too.
posted by thelonius at 10:50 AM on October 19, 2012


Of course, this is what robots.txt is for. They could stop Google from indexing them this very minute if they so chose. They just want to eat their cake and have Google pay for it too.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:52 AM on October 19, 2012 [28 favorites]


If I squint really hard I can kind of see the newspapers' point. They would like nothing better than for you to spend 15 minutes clicking around their website looking for content and being delivered ads all the while. With Google, maybe you spend 1 minute reading the one article you want but see only one ad. Instead you are seeing Google's ads. Google has therefore supplanted the newspapers' own index using the newspapers' content but delivering Google's ads.

Then they can write a robot.txt file that only allows results to their front page or search engine. They do not do this, because they want the traffic. They can't have it both ways, and I hope this proposal dies in a fire.
posted by jaduncan at 10:53 AM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


If you can't collect a rent, legislate one into existence.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:54 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you can define something as "property" you can get away with all kinds of crazy shit.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:56 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah but the reason you have to squint pretty hard is to simulate the newspapers' shortsightedness.

They imagine that the options are (A) readers going directly to their site, seeing their ads, while searching around for content; versus (B) readers going through Google, seeing Google's ads, before clicking on one link to read their article and perhaps seeing one newspaper ad. Obviously, A is preferable to B.

But Option A doesn't even exist outside the newspaper publishers' heads, except perhaps for a very, very small number of newspapers of such standing that their websites are "destinations" in themselves.

In reality, their options are B or a third one, Option C: Google de-indexes them, and readers continue to use Google, seeing Google's ads, but go to some other newspaper / online source for content, and see a single ad above the actual article from that source.

So instead of not-much-revenue, they get no revenue.

They are, in essence, doubling down on their current business models: they're either going to succeed as content "destinations" or die trying. Fine, I suppose. But I think a more sane plan would be to accept the reality of online news delivery, and build a business model around the page/ad views that they get from Google traffic. If that's not very much, then they need to reduce costs. If the French don't like their newspapers being reduced to a series of Cracked.com top-10-list clones, then they can publicly fund news via whatever the French equivalent of PBS or the BBC is.

Picking a fight with Google is, like invading Russia in the fall, a somewhat inadvisable idea.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:58 AM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


The motivation behind something like this is that Google essentially treats all websites as content to drive usage through their targeted ad network.

Traditionally, and even among DSPs, content providers (and especially premium content providers) are given a cut of returns on ad network traffic.

What's interesting to me about this is that the only conversation around how Google exploits content for their own gain has previously been around the Google books project. This is taking that same protest to another level.

It also begs the question of whether a search engine as ad network is even a consumer friendly model...and if this isn't the only way for search engines to monetize, might other models be able to draw as extensive a consumer-user base?

Interesting stuff. Google's response is not surprising.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:59 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a good idea for at most a very small set of newspapers. Very few papers are so well-known (globally or in their local market) that they can command a lot of bookmark and top-the-URL traffic, and yet so little valued that they had no constituency for a paywall.
posted by MattD at 11:09 AM on October 19, 2012


I say we sue libraries for using a catalog system. No one should know what is in a book without buying it!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2012


Shouldn't websites which are found via Google searches pay Google a percentage of whatever their ad revenue is? A finders fee?

I think part of the issue is that lots of people only read headlines. If you can read the headlines at Google News, the newspapers don't get any ad revenue (or even traffic) from Google. If the content that actually generates the most ad revenue is newspaper headlines (rather than articles), then the newspapers sort of have a point that Google is taking the thing that sells ads and using it to sell their own ads.

The problem is that there's too much supply and not enough demand. If the price newspapers want to charge for their headlines is too high (that is, not zero), Google has plenty of other places to get headlines.

The question is not whether newspapers are being short-sighted, but is Google? How many newspapers can go under before Google News becomes less valuable? (And how short-sighted am I being by using AdBlock?)
posted by straight at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Non-ad driven search would look at lot like the commercial entities who do academic indexing. As a rule, these services are expensive and therefore only purchased by individuals and institutions that really need them. There are all sorts of fractal deals to finely chose how much of the body of human study gets covered by what you are willing to pay for search results interesting to you.

I think a non-ad driven search company would look a lot like the old news monitoring/clipping services and would have to be similarly expensive. Politicians, PR people and the like would be the major clients.

The web would likely split even more into invisible and visible: that hidden behind pay-walls and these new rent-walls, and a smaller, more amateur, less well-informed public sphere.
posted by bonehead at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


you might have noticed as your search term not being transferable form the main search when you click on the news tab.

That annoys the shit out of me. Doesn't seem to happen with the sidebar, but I click the fucking tab every time...
posted by Artw at 11:11 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The question is not whether newspapers are being short-sighted, but is Google? How many newspapers can go under before Google News becomes less valuable? (And how short-sighted am I being by using AdBlock?)

Google and publishers have been struggling with this for a long time now, with Google making noises about working with publishers to find a solution.

It doesn't look like they've found one, yet.

How long before some enterprising publisher or product manager at DuckDuckGo does?
posted by notyou at 11:19 AM on October 19, 2012


Brazil has already done it.

And Google and other search engines respect robots.txt, so anyone can do it and you can, it appears, opt out of specific services. It doesn't have to be a law. I don't see where it's a law in Brazil or some sort of taxation. How is opting out the same as doing what may happen in France?
posted by juiceCake at 11:22 AM on October 19, 2012


I think Google should stop linking to any French newspaper sites starting right now, and see how fast said sites come back with beret-in-hand.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:31 AM on October 19, 2012


How is opting out the same as doing what may happen in France?

Well, this way more lawyers get paid.

I'm guessing they talked to the lawyers and not IT.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:32 AM on October 19, 2012


Don't know why France is such big news.
Brazil has already done it.


In Brazil they're opting out of Google news, not search.


Germany is doing something similar too.

Considering, anyway.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:44 AM on October 19, 2012


> ...maybe they should start their own Internet...

Cool! They could cal it, "les Tubes"

posted by mmrtnt at 11:54 AM on October 19, 2012


The British courts are doing something similar - but so far the papers have only decided to charge media monitoring firms. We're challenging the terms.
posted by imperium at 11:55 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


First, can we try to avoid the French stereotyping? It's distasteful.

Second, this isn't as stupid as most of you are letting on. A very large number of the people who glance at Google News don't in fact go on to click on anything - they only want the headlines. So they're giving away this data for free "for the exposure". But since most papers in the world are losing money, they are providing free services to Google at a loss - they will never "make it up in volume".

If one or two newspapers defect, stop allowing Google to re-use their content, then they see massive losses in their viewership. But if ALL French language newspapers defected from Google news, so that if you wanted to read the news in French you had to go to the newspapers' own sites, then they recapture at least some of the revenue that they've lost.

People are actually interested in the news. This demand isn't created by Google News. If Google didn't direct people to news articles, they would actually be able to find newspapers' sites themselves and go to them.

And I approve of this tactic. It has a chance of working, and it's much better than sitting there waiting for the end. Being French language newspapers, they can actually "corner the market" and engage in collective bargaining.

All these new media threads have basically the same tone - "We can take your content for free, so we will, ethics have no place in this discussion, and you're just an old fuddy-duddy if you argue otherwise, take that cheese-eating surrender monkeys!"

There are millions of people employed in these old-media fields - you're saying, "You're dead, go jump in a grave now, because no one will pay you." Don't expect these people to give up without a fight.

And when the newspapers are all gone, who's going to take their place? Have we seen an explosion of high-quality internet news sites that aren't the offshoot of a newspaper? Are CNN or Fox really a replacement for the NYT, Le Monde or The Guardian?

The world desperately needs more news gathering, more news investigation, and instead we're getting more outlets that simply read (or in Fox News's case, deliberately mislead) the press releases of corporation and government.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:00 PM on October 19, 2012 [22 favorites]


Second, this isn't as stupid as most of you are letting on. A very large number of the people who glance at Google News don't in fact go on to click on anything - they only want the headlines. So they're giving away this data for free "for the exposure". But since most papers in the world are losing money, they are providing free services to Google at a loss - they will never "make it up in volume".'

It's absurd because they can opt out rather than legislate including them in results and forcing the results aggregator to pay.

If one or two newspapers defect, stop allowing Google to re-use their content, then they see massive losses in their viewership. But if ALL French language newspapers defected from Google news, so that if you wanted to read the news in French you had to go to the newspapers' own sites, then they recapture at least some of the revenue that they've lost.

Which they can do rather simply rather than through legislation. Papers in Belgium did the same thing though the results weren't what you forecast here.

All these new media threads have basically the same tone - "We can take your content for free, so we will, ethics have no place in this discussion, and you're just an old fuddy-duddy if you argue otherwise, take that cheese-eating surrender monkeys!"

No they do not have the same tone. Google and other search engines are options. They are not mandatory.

There are millions of people employed in these old-media fields - you're saying, "You're dead, go jump in a grave now, because no one will pay you." Don't expect these people to give up without a fight.

I've seen people say that business needs to adapt to new paradigms and you know, use their choices to not be part of search engines but arguments that basically amount to "fuck you" are few and far between. Who is saying these things in this thread?

And when the newspapers are all gone, who's going to take their place? Have we seen an explosion of high-quality internet news sites that aren't the offshoot of a newspaper? Are CNN or Fox really a replacement for the NYT, Le Monde or The Guardian?

Many people consider them so.

The world desperately needs more news gathering, more news investigation, and instead we're getting more outlets that simply read (or in Fox News's case, deliberately mislead) the press releases of corporation and government.

Fortunately we have services like Google that enable us to find actual journalism.
posted by juiceCake at 12:14 PM on October 19, 2012


First, can we try to avoid the French stereotyping? It's distasteful.

Nobody complained when we were making fun of the Belgians for the exact same thing.

A very large number of the people who glance at Google News don't in fact go on to click on anything - they only want the headlines

Next up, a "walking past the newsstand fee."

People are actually interested in the news. This demand isn't created by Google News

No. But it's satisfied by Google. France is free to create their own search engine. Good luck with that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:15 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And when the newspapers are all gone, who's going to take their place?

You do know that Newsweek is going internet-only starting in January, right?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:18 PM on October 19, 2012


this isn't as stupid as most of you are letting on

I'm not sure I agree, since robots.txt exists for reasons like this. Why bother with a law?

However, setting that aside, there will be a potentially gigantic payoff for an enterprising young pirate company in the Francophone world -- base yourselves offshore of Europe and spider the holy hell out of French newspapers. Heck, open your index to the Googlespider and slap an ad frame on every clickthrough. Distasteful, you bet. Profitable? Probably.

Not kidding. Any of you folks feel like making money, here's a big opening.
posted by aramaic at 12:24 PM on October 19, 2012


If Google is diverting advertising dollars away from newspaper sites, how is Newsweek being internet-only going to help with that?
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:27 PM on October 19, 2012


[Newspapers] can actually "corner the market" and engage in collective bargaining.

With whom? Google?

Ok, what about Drudge? The Daily Beast's Cheat Sheet? Metafilter? Does pay to play mean that if you link, you have to license?

Couldn't papers solve this technically by disallowing "deep linking"? Why don't they do that?
posted by bonehead at 12:32 PM on October 19, 2012


If Google is diverting advertising dollars away from newspaper sites, how is Newsweek being internet-only going to help with that?

Google is adding advertising dollars to search results. I'm not sure I understand the rest of the question.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:32 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


As I explained above, I thought quite clearly, the reason that this can't be done individually without concerted action is because any individual paper doing this will suffer, and conversely if most papers do it but a few don't, they capture huge gains.

It has to be all or none. Either all the newspapers have to enter into some sort of agreement, or it must be done legislatively. If one newspaper changes their robots.txt, it dies a messy death.

>> People are actually interested in the news. This demand isn't created by Google News

>>No. But it's satisfied by Google.

If you are arguing that Google News is in fact providing people with news, news gathered by other companies at their own expense and given for free to Google who then provides it to potential news customers and satisfies their demand for news, then there's of course no reason that the newspapers should put up with it.

Of course, the whole argument for legitimacy of Google News resides with the fact that Google is not a news provider, but simply an index for other sites that do provide news and satisfy demand.

Overall, you're simply validating my argument. If all French newspapers dropped off Google News, then French speaking people would still have a demand for news - a demand for a product that could no longer be satisfied by Google News who is no longer getting their product for free - and people would still go to the French language newspaper sites to get this news, they wouldn't simply forget about news and go to cuteoverload.com
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:36 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It has to be all or none

The newspapers can do that without resorting to legislation.

Unless, of course, this isn't a matter of French news publishers generally, but is in fact simply a matter of one or two French news publishers who wish to dictate the course of their industry against the wishes of their fellow publishers.

In that case, yes, I can see how they might require legislation to drag their fellow publishers down with them.
posted by aramaic at 12:43 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Google News doesn't "satisfy" anyone who has anything but the most cursory interest whatsoever - i.e. in the headlines. But the bottom line is this - why should indexing or scanning public content be something anyone has to pay to do? If the internet had been built like that it wouldn't have ever been built at all.
posted by imperium at 12:43 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


> You do know that Newsweek is going internet-only starting in January, right?

Yes, I do, but this isn't at all relevant. We're only talking about news on the internet here... print is clearly in a steep dive and won't really recover.

> > If Google is diverting advertising dollars away from newspaper sites, how is Newsweek being internet-only going to help with that?

> Google is adding advertising dollars to search results.

Which helps Newsweek... how?

> I'm not sure I understand the rest of the question.

Sorry, I flat out don't believe you don't understand that perfectly clear question.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:44 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If all French newspapers dropped off Google News, then French speaking people would still have a demand for news - a demand for a product that could no longer be satisfied by Google News who is no longer getting their product for free - and people would still go to the French language newspaper sites to get this news, they wouldn't simply forget about news and go to cuteoverload.com.
Then why don't they collectively institute a robots.txt block or all disallow deep linking? Then, if and when Google misses the revenue they recognize from their content, they can negotiate a fee.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:45 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If all French newspapers dropped off Google News, then French speaking people would still have a demand for news - a demand for a product that could no longer be satisfied by Google News who is no longer getting their product for free - and people would still go to the French language newspaper sites to get this news

And, as mentioned above, they have the tools to do that now. Legislation is only required if they wish to compel everyone else (in France) to do the same.

I don't think that's going to work out so well.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:47 PM on October 19, 2012


> In that case, yes, I can see how they might require legislation to drag their fellow publishers down with them.

As oppose to your plan for their survival, which is...?

> But the bottom line is this - why should indexing or scanning public content be something anyone has to pay to do?

Why can't I just scan the whole newspaper and put it online for everyone for free? Clearly ridiculous, but showing people the topic paragraph and photo from each story on your site is going a long way in that direction.

> If the internet had been built like that it wouldn't have ever been built at all.

Firewalls are essential today - but if they'd required firewalls, the internet wouldn't have been built. Unshielded SMTP relays are completely forbidden today, but if it wasn't for unshielded SMTP relays email would never have started. https is essential to any form of commerce or communication, but again, there was no way the internet could possibly have worked that way.

Why stop at the internet? If there had been emissions controls, Ford could not have built the Model T!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:50 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


As oppose to your plan for their survival, which is...?

How is that relevant?
posted by aramaic at 12:52 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a difference between linking to original content and showing the headline on one hand, and republishing the content. The latter is already an offence across the rich world.
posted by imperium at 12:52 PM on October 19, 2012


> And, as mentioned above, they have the tools to do that now. Legislation is only required if they wish to compel everyone else (in France) to do the same.

I wrote:

> As I explained above, I thought quite clearly, the reason that this can't be done individually without concerted action is because any individual paper doing this will suffer, and conversely if most papers do it but a few don't, they capture huge gains.

> It has to be all or none. Either all the newspapers have to enter into some sort of agreement, or it must be done legislatively. If one newspaper changes their robots.txt, it dies a messy death.

Clear?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:53 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where does this end? Who will be required to license to link? Just Google?

How about other news sites? Will things like Gawker or Drudge be ok?

Reddit makes lots of money off of news stories too. Perhaps a quarter of their front page goes to newspapers. Do they have to pay? Fark? Digg?

The links at the top of this post are the same. Is Matt going to have to pay out to a bunch of licensing agencies to link to news articles for Metafilter? Would a site like Metafilter or Reddit exist under such a commercial rights regime?
posted by bonehead at 12:55 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


>> It has to be all or none. Either all the newspapers have to enter into some sort of agreement, or it must be done legislatively. If one newspaper changes their robots.txt, it dies a messy death.

Yeah. So force the smaller papers who are probably jumping at the bit to be beneficiaries of this craziness to be part of it.

1% thinking, there.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:57 PM on October 19, 2012


> > > Why can't I just scan the whole newspaper and put it online for everyone for free?

> There's a difference between linking to original content and showing the headline on one hand, and republishing the content. The latter is already an offence across the rich world.

In the very next sentence I wrote:

> Clearly ridiculous, but showing people the topic paragraph and photo from each story on your site is going a long way in that direction.

Showing people the topic paragraph and photo for your stories on your site is not "posting the whole newspaper" but it isn't just "providing a link" either.


> > As oppose to your plan for their survival, which is...?

> How is that relevant?

The newspapers need to take some action - they are dying. This strategy has at least some chance of working. The current plan of doing nothing has no chance of working.

If you're saying, "This is stupid and wrong," then you really need to say what should be done.

The reason I harp on this is I believe that if you and other people here honestly answered the question, the answer would be, "I believe that the newspapers should accept their death."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:01 PM on October 19, 2012


> Who will be required to license to link?

It becomes tiresome to repeatedly point out that the ability to link has never been under discussion here.

The issue is that Google News provides a synopsis of the story and a photo from it - so in many cases you don't ever need to click on the link.

(I have some inside information here - I used to work at Google and knew people who worked at Google News - and it's years later so I can ethically tell you that as of 2009 or so only a small percentage of the visits to the Google News site resulted in even a single click on any of the articles...)

Compare and contrast to, say, Metafilter, where most of the content is created by Metafilter's own users, and you basically have to read the article to contribute...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:11 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I believe that the newspapers should accept their death.

Not at all. The NY times paywall model seems to be working out (Wired, Guardian, PBS). My local paper swapped over to it last month, my national paper of choice is doing it next week (and I'm considering subscribing).

I don't think we have to burn the internet down to save it. News organizations do have to figure out a business model that works, no question, but imposing an odious, draconian rent system isn't it.
posted by bonehead at 1:11 PM on October 19, 2012


Compare and contrast to, say, Metafilter, where most of the content is created by Metafilter's own users, and you basically have to read the article to contribute...

This is pretty clearly not true, actually. A lot of Mefites just read whatever is posted to the front page and don't actually read the link. What percentage? I don't know, but I also don't know what percentage of Google News users just visit the portal and don't visit any of the links.
posted by muddgirl at 1:14 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Compare and contrast to, say, Metafilter, where most of the content is created by Metafilter's own users

Posts are almost always constructed with pull-quotes from the links though. This behavior is encouraged, here: limiting editorializing. I'm not seeing a lot of difference legally between doing it by algorithm at Google News or by a human curator here at Metafilter.
posted by bonehead at 1:14 PM on October 19, 2012


The newspapers need to take some action - they are dying.

Are they dying? Or just changing? I know they aren't making the gobs of money they used to in the United States, where in many major cities they enjoyed a monopoly or duopoly. I know they have had difficulty getting the same super-high priced ads online as they get in print. I know there is a lot more competition and they haven't done well at creating value online and thus have lost key areas of past revenue streams.

The biggest problem they face is not Google, it's effectively selling high priced ads on their pages, and low-cost ads for users. This, to me is a solvable problem but going after Google isn't going to help at all.
posted by cell divide at 1:15 PM on October 19, 2012


so only a small percentage of the visits to the Google News site resulted in even a single click on any of the articles.

Does this include people that type a search into Google, then click the News tab at the top, then curse the fact that they've stumbled on the News Portal rather than the Google News Search before retyping their query?
posted by muddgirl at 1:16 PM on October 19, 2012


showing people the topic paragraph and photo from each story on your site is going a long way in that direction.

Every search engine shows excerpts for their results. Should search engines exist at all?
posted by kmz at 1:16 PM on October 19, 2012


Is there a Le HuffPo swiping everyone's French language Google news top spot from them via SEO? Presumably they won't be hiding themselves.
posted by Artw at 1:19 PM on October 19, 2012


> Are they dying? Or just changing?

The overall revenue of the newspaper business is down by about 50% in this century, and continues to fall.

> The NY times paywall model seems to be working out

New York Times posted a $88 million second-quarter loss, down from $120 million in the same quarter the previous year. From that article, "Increases in circulation and digital subscriptions contributed to a 0.6 percent increase in revenue."

> Every search engine shows excerpts for their results. Should search engines exist at all?

Of course they should - but yet again, the idea that "some snippets are OK therefore it's all OK" is unreasonable.

If newspapers discover that, yes, Google printing the topic sentence and a photo means people don't ever click through the articles and that they aren't making a living, then they have the legal and technical ability to prevent Google from doing that, and the moral and legal responsibility to their stockholders and employees to do just that.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:28 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're saying, "This is stupid and wrong," then you really need to say what should be done.

I disagree. I believe I can see why you might think that, but I disagree. Suggesting that a given solution is foolhardy merely means that one believes that there can be better solutions. It does not mean that one necessarily believes a particular solution is superior.

Furthermore, I was under the impression that business strategy is something that corporate executives are paid to perform. I wish to state, for the record, that I am fully willing to assume control of any newspaper corporation in France, whether it is currently profitable or not.

However, as that seems unlikely, I am still prepared to go into more detail on newspaper survival -- my consulting rate is $250 an hour, minimum five hours, plus $500 per diem for incidental expenses on any day which requires travel. All expenses related to securing transit (ie., airfare, taxi fare, not hotels or food, which I will cover myself) are to be covered after the expense has been incurred; I will submit receipts within 2 days of completion of travel. All travel will be "business class" or equivalent, except in cases where such services are not available due to site conditions or availability of transport.

Payment terms are slightly flexible, but generally speaking I require the initial 5 hour payment up front, with additional payments occuring weekly. Monthly invoices can be arranged for suitable fees (usually 10% of total, markedly less for sterling payment history, more for new contracts). Work results will be one white paper, and four hours of personal presentation (the exact nature of which can be negotiated once the white paper has been delivered, if desired).

Information is worth paying for, after all.

I am also being completely serious. It is a matter of personal pride that I have always, always delivered on my obligations in a timely and professional matter.
posted by aramaic at 1:28 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Typical French socialist economic stupidity. Keep this kind of stuff up and they'll be asking the Germans for a bailout in 10 years. Maybe they should just try to tax Google 75% of the ad revenue it generates when driving traffic to French newspapers' websites.

Print newspapers have seen their incomes gradually eroded in recent years as consumers and advertisers turn to the web.

And the solution to that, O French journalistic sages, is to try to drive DOWN web traffic so your advertisers don't want to advertise online, either? If you've got a product worth buying, then charge for it, just like the New York Times, Times of London, and now the Globe and Mail are doing.
posted by Dasein at 1:35 PM on October 19, 2012


In the 90s there was this vision of micro-payments: you'd pay 5 or 10 cents to read a news article, supplementing ad revenue, and all your clicks would be aggregated and billed to you every month. It would have been a universal system with buy-in from publishers, payment processors, and search engines. But the publishers never agreed on a system. Even today, if the top 100 newspapers and magazines got together and put together an integrated payment system, I think it would have a decent shot at success.
posted by miyabo at 1:44 PM on October 19, 2012


The NY Times had a loss because they took a large write-down on About.com. Without that, they would have been about $40M in the black.

The real problem is here: "Digital subscriptions have helped circulation revenue at The Times and Herald Tribune surpass advertising revenue. The newspapers had combined circulation revenue of $194 million, compared with advertising revenue of $171 million."

I can't remember the last time subscription revenue eclipsed advertizing. That's the story and the reason papers are struggling---advertisers are not paying anything like they used to. The Globe and Mail, as part of their switch over to a paywall system revealed that they get about 1/11th with online ad revenue that they used to get for the print edition.

The people making out like bandits here are not Google, not the public, but the companies buying ads with the papers. That's why I'm so skeptical of the argument that the search engines and blogs are the big evil-doers, stealing the papers' content. What's screwed up are the prices for on-line ads relative to print ads.
posted by bonehead at 1:45 PM on October 19, 2012


> And the solution to that, O French journalistic sages, is to try to drive DOWN web traffic

You are misrepresenting the argument and then mocking a straw man.

As was stated in the main article and I have repeated many times above, the issue is that most of the viewers don't ever click on the articles in Google News - that these newspapers simply aren't seeing web traffic. The theory is that if people were forced to go to the actual newspaper sites to read the news, these sites would get increased traffic and ad clicks.

This theory might not be true, but representing it as a strategy to drive down web traffic is unreasonable.

Me? I think the newspapers are basically doomed. I think the vast majority of people don't want to pay, won't pay, will do anything to avoid paying, and don't really care much at all about the quality of the news or the reputation of the paper. I think this might always have been the case but in the past you had to be pretty competent even to run a daily newspaper at all and newspapers valued competence in newsgathering as a side-effect.

But I think this might at least slow things down for them and I'm interested to see the results, because it seems at least somewhat feasible, and easy to reverse if it doesn't work.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:02 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


In Brazil they're opting out of Google news, not search.

It's not completely clear from the article, but I think that's what they're talking about in France as well.

this is what robots.txt is for. They could stop Google from indexing them this very minute if they so chose.

Tragedy of the commons. It doesn't help me to exclude Google from indexing my site unless everyone else does it and we can pressure Google to share some of the ad money they get from putting my headlines and my lead grafs on Google News.
posted by straight at 2:09 PM on October 19, 2012


I do not share your optimism for this process, lupus_yonderboy. Government regulation is probably the least flexible, most blunt instrument possible. It's very hard to create, hard to change and almost impossible to repeal. I say this as someone who has seen the process up close and personal more times than I care to think about.
posted by bonehead at 2:12 PM on October 19, 2012


the issue is that most of the viewers don't ever click on the articles in Google News

So... What's the value that they're not being compensated for? That they wrote less-than-compelling-headlines?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:18 PM on October 19, 2012


You simply must read that German article, it's a hoot.

The latest draft amendment proposes far less than what some German publishers sought from the beginning [...]

"The example that was given at the hearing was: a bank employee reads his morning newspaper online and sees something about the steel industry, and then advises his clients to invest in certain markets," [...] "The publishers argued that the bank consultant was only able to advise his clients because of the journalistic work in the published article. So that means the publisher deserves a fair share of any money made from that scenario. This was the proposal from the start."


Hahaha! Right, and if the client lost money, the publishers would chip in to cover their portion of the loss.
posted by user92371 at 2:30 PM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would love, love, love to see how the German publishing industry intends to track the causal relationships between millions of Germans reading online articles and making profitable decisions in their lives. Or are they prepared to just skip over the messy business of actually proving that they are entitled to money and just assume that they are, and ask the government to force people to pay for them? Isn't it fun to come up with new excuses to ask for government subsidies?
posted by Dasein at 2:52 PM on October 19, 2012


> > the issue is that most of the viewers don't ever click on the articles in Google News

> So... What's the value that they're not being compensated for? That they wrote less-than-compelling-headlines?

I really don't think you're arguing in good faith, but on the off-chance you are, the "value" is the news story that they spent money to acquire and create. If Google gives away enough of this story for free so that the user doesn't ever have to go to the newspaper's website and potentially click on ads, then the newspaper loses.

> Government regulation is probably the least flexible, most blunt instrument possible.

All sorts of good (and bad) things have been achieved through government regulation. In the United States, I'd point to civil rights, I'd point to the regulations controlling pollution, truth in advertising regulations, food regulations, the utilities, the interstates...

As someone who has worked on Wall Street in the past, I'd say that the entire financial industry would be impossible without detailed regulation, and the trouble we have today is entirely due inadequate regulation, and inadequate enforcement of the regulations we do have.

But this is a derail - a generic libertarian political argument which has nothing to do with the matter at hand.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:57 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Globe and Mail, as part of their switch over to a paywall system revealed that they get about 1/11th with online ad revenue that they used to get for the print edition.

The people making out like bandits here are not Google, not the public, but the companies buying ads with the papers. That's why I'm so skeptical of the argument that the search engines and blogs are the big evil-doers, stealing the papers' content. What's screwed up are the prices for on-line ads relative to print ads.


I'm actually in online advertising, and the issue that we have is, well, we can see down to the penny what the advertising actually worth. We have tracking and attribution models out the wazoo. The problem isn't that online advertising is underpriced by 1/11, it's that the the old style of advertising was overpriced by 11/1.

The rise of digital just made that apparent for the first time.
posted by generichuman at 3:06 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Google gives away enough of this story for free so that the user doesn't ever have to go to the newspaper's website and potentially click on ads, then the newspaper loses.

If the value of the story is effectively encapsulated in a headline, there ain't much there there.

French newspapers need to invest more in creating news.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:18 PM on October 19, 2012


> The problem isn't that online advertising is underpriced by 1/11, it's that the the old style of advertising was overpriced by 11/1. The rise of digital just made that apparent for the first time.

You're saying that everyone was paying ten times as much money for newspapers ads for centuries, and that all of the capitalists carefully deciding where to put their money in advertising and studying the results since the 17th century were off by a full order of magnitude.

Rather than concluding "everyone before today was an idiot", wouldn't it be more likely to wonder if advertising might have quite recently made a fundamental change - because of the arrival of the internet?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:19 PM on October 19, 2012


You're saying that everyone was paying ten times as much money for newspapers ads for centuries, and that all of the capitalists carefully deciding where to put their money in advertising and studying the results since the 17th century were off by a full order of magnitude.

I'll say that's possible. The impact of advertising is very hard to measure and could easily be off by an order of magnitude.

On the other hand, attempts to measure the impact of online advertising are very difficult as well. It's not at all clear that whether someone clicked on an ad is the best measure of it's effectiveness.
posted by straight at 3:39 PM on October 19, 2012


Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.

John Wanamaker
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:54 PM on October 19, 2012


I fail to understand why AT+T doesn't toss me a nickel every time my kids call me. After all, it's certainly true that at the margins if I couldn't be reached by telephone my kids would marginally less likely to have phone lines, no?
posted by hoople at 4:08 PM on October 19, 2012


Is this not a suicidal demand? Does Google stand to lose remotely as much from not cataloging French sites as the French sites do?

Consider that if the law becomes universal (in France) that French citizens will HAVE to go to their favorite newspaper's website (and probably have to pay a subscription fee, eventually), because how else are they going to get the news, in French - especially local news. For certain languages and newspaper cultures, this new French tactic might make $$$ sense. If course, there would be a boiling down of French news, because the newspapers with the most marketing and news-gathering might would end up on top (with highest ad revenues). This is a kind of "backwards deconstruction of disintermediation". Derrida would be proud. Satre wouldn't evern bat an eyelash, because according to him everything - even money - is nothingness, anyway.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:21 PM on October 19, 2012


lupus - I'll take the argument that new niche journalism destinations, ala politico, the oil drum, globaldashboard, salon, slate, etc are the future, along with things like local sports blogs, community news wikis, collaborative event forums, etc.

Even with a total traditional provider strike, headlines and stories will come from these enthusiast and pure digital sites. It might not be the quality of journalism that you want (although I'd argue often in some ways it's superior), but for the vast majority of consumers who want to scan for headlines, it will suffice.

History shows us many examples where technological limitations allowed a set of players to monopolize profit until the hurdle were overcome. When people talk about the death of old media, they don't mean it personally. It's just inevitable. You might as well fight against the setting sun. Some of the current institutions will transform and rise again, and most of them won't. In the process, the world will become poorer in many ways for the lost traditions and arts, and at the same time, new possibilities and opportunities emerge.

Or, it's all a net loss and we end up down the shite hole ala Idiocracy, either way this legislation ain't going to squat.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 5:03 PM on October 19, 2012


and you basically have to read the article to contribute...

We clearly read different Metafilters.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:01 PM on October 19, 2012


Having just gone and *looked* at the new Google News homepage, I now totally agree with the newspapers. That is *not* a page of search results, it's a newspaper's front-page, complete with sections, and editorial input. They even discourage using the search facility.

So yes, I think Google really has stepped over the line from "mere indexing" to "republishing", and should pay for that privilege.
posted by mr. strange at 6:09 PM on October 19, 2012


Have a link, mr. strange? Because the one I'm looking at is a headline and a sentence. Occasionally with a thumbnail picture.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:18 PM on October 19, 2012


The problem isn't that online advertising is underpriced by 1/11, it's that the the old style of advertising was overpriced by 11/1.

With print advertising, advertisers get people who have paid for a paper, and they can know, with subscribers, who's reading: it's easy to get statistics that tell you the average income of the households in subscribers' neighbourhoods. So the newspaper is delivering a much higher-value eyeball to the advertiser. On the internet, you have a much wider, and less valuable audience, possibly not even from the right geographical area. On a purely anecdotal level, I will look a well-done ad in a newspaper; I can't remember the last time I paid any attention to online advertising. Newspaper advertising may be overpriced, but it's worth a lot more than online advertising, and I don't think that will change.
posted by Dasein at 8:26 PM on October 19, 2012


So yes, I think Google really has stepped over the line from "mere indexing" to "republishing", and should pay for that privilege.

It seems to me they're republishing less than what most newspapers put on their front page, and driving traffic to the papers' website if people want any detail at all. They also give several sources for the key news, which makes it more likely I'll visit more than one news site. Online papers should be writing Google cheques, not the other way around.
posted by Dasein at 8:29 PM on October 19, 2012


If the value of the story is effectively encapsulated in a headline, there ain't much there there.

Are you saying the headlines are valuable enough for Google to take them and make money from them, but not valuable enough for the newspapers that create them to deserve some of that money?
posted by straight at 8:49 AM on October 20, 2012


Note that the French legislation is about search results for news items in Google search, not the Google News page. Search returns a headline, about half of the first sentence of the article and a thumbnail of a picture sometimes. Here's a typical example. Note that this is close to, if not identical to a typical search result return, for example this.

Google's argument is that their results for news stories are fair dealing/fair use under existing copyright. The newspapers seem to think it isn't. It's hard for me to imagine a smaller excerpt that would be useful as a search result.

The argument really is whether news items should be searchable by third parties or not. The news companies do seem to want things both ways here: a headline page which is free for some users, but not others. They want to extend copyright to exclude fair dealing/use by other commercial entities.

So why should newspapers get special consideration compared to any other search result in Google? Why should Google be responsible for newspapers collective inability to act in their own best interest and use the existing technological tools, like the robots.txt exclusions, to do exactly what they want? They seem to be trying to stay within the limits of copyright law and to be treating news stories no differently than they treat any other copyrighted material.

Some newspapers do seem to have problems adapting, sure, but I don't see why that should entitle them to shrink the grants for fair dealing/use under copyright law. The fact that an old business model is not viable, doesn't entitle an industry, in my view, to a legal land grab, especially at the cost of the public interest.

Further, some newspapers, like the NYTimes, the WSJ and the London Times do seem to have figured it out and do seem to be profitable again with on-line subscriptions.

Given that Google seems to try to play fair under existing copyright law, that the newspapers seemingly can't control their own behaviour for their own best interest, and further that some papers seem to have figured out how to make money in the existing copyright regimes anyway, it's not at all clear to me that these proposed copyright restrictions are necessary. This is a problem newspapers can fix themselves. They don't need more or different laws, just publishers who understand how to make a profit.
posted by bonehead at 10:46 AM on October 20, 2012


Note that the French legislation is about search results for news items in Google search, not the Google News page.

Are you sure? That's not at all clear from any of the news stories I've seen about this. (And I'd expect a significant portion of news stories to screw up that distinction anyway.)
posted by straight at 12:03 PM on October 20, 2012


The BBC article linked in the post says that this is about search results for news at least three times in their article, once as a direct quote from an analyst.
posted by bonehead at 9:53 PM on October 20, 2012


Using robots to block Google News. Courtesy of Google.

So again, why the need for legislation? Has Google refused to publish robots.txt instructions in other languages?
posted by juiceCake at 6:11 AM on October 22, 2012


Again, unilaterally blocking robots.txt would be as pointless as one person going on strike by himself.
posted by straight at 11:58 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


unilaterally blocking robots.txt would be as pointless as one person going on strike by himself.

Maybe, but these are corporations dealing with other corporations. It's not like they've got spouses to provide for. This is the market in action.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:21 PM on October 22, 2012


So, assuming that there's a class Of websites that can only be indexed if paid for, how would they be marked? Would there be a blacklist or would they have to be indicated by something like ROBOTS.TXT?
posted by Artw at 12:41 PM on October 22, 2012


Artw, there'd be a generic No Robots, and a side deal that allowed paid clients to index.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:33 PM on October 22, 2012


Again, unilaterally blocking robots.txt would be as pointless as one person going on strike by himself.

Then team up. So a law has to be invented because the companies won't do what they can themselves, even though the solutions are right there? Companies don't have to be indexed. I don't see why a law has to be made to ensure that those who don't want to be indexed, don't do it themselves, and get paid for not doing it.
posted by juiceCake at 1:13 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


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