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Newspapers Face the Prisoner's Dilemma With Google 290

Hugh Pickens writes "Nicholas Carr has an interesting analysis of Rupert Murdoch's threat to de-list News Corp's stories from Google and Microsoft's eager offer to make Bing Murdoch's exclusive search engine for its content. Carr writes that newspapers are caught in a classic Prisoner's Dilemma with Google because Google's search engine 'prevents them from making decent money online — by massively fragmenting traffic, by undermining brand power, and by turning news stories into fungible commodities.' If any single newspaper opts out of Google, their competitors will pick up the traffic they lose. There is only one way that newspapers can break out of the prison — if a critical mass of newspapers opt out of Google's search engine simultaneously, they would suddenly gain substantial market power. Murdoch may have been signaling to other newspapers that 'we'll opt out if you'll opt out,' positioning himself as the would-be ringleader of a massive jailbreak, without actually risking a jailbreak himself. There are signs that Murdoch's signal is working, with reports that the publishers of the Denver Post and the Dallas Morning News are now also considering blocking Google. In the meantime, Steve Ballmer is more than happy to play along with Murdoch because although a deal with News Corps would reduce the basic profitability of Microsoft's search business, it would inflict far more damage on Google than on Microsoft."
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Newspapers Face the Prisoner's Dilemma With Google

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  • What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by haderytn ( 1232484 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:31AM (#30245252)
    What is a newspaper?
    • You joke, however, contrary to what you read on here, the print media industry is thriving. A lot of people prefer the newspaper format and brick-and-mortar companies prefer brick-and-mortar advertising (think supermarket chains et al., they have no reason to advertise on the internet) so they shell out thousands in advertising. As a geek working in the industry, I wish Rupert would throw himself under a bus as he's giving us a bad name.
      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:50AM (#30245394)
        Yeah, and if you look at the demographics who like newspapers they are almost overwhelmingly older. Talk to a 20 something and ask them if they read the newspaper, most will just laugh at you. In about 80 years, just about anyone who likes reading a newspaper now will be dead. Mix that with the fact that even older people who like newspapers are finding out about the internet and getting more news from there means an accelerated death for print. Yeah, print advertising will probably stick around but the newspapers simply aren't the place to get information for national or world news anymore. Local newspapers in small towns will stick around for longer than national newspapers but there just needs to be a few good blogs about the area and soon the newspaper has free competition.
        • by otter42 ( 190544 )

          Yeah, and if you look at the demographics who like newspapers they are almost overwhelmingly older. Talk to a 20 something and ask them if they read the newspaper, most will just laugh at you.

          If you asked someone that 10 years ago, it was the same response. And they, for sure, weren't getting their news online.

          Not saying you're wrong, just that your example could be better chosen.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by c_forq ( 924234 )
            I don't think this is true. I am a twenty something, and I remember that 10 years ago most people I went to school with didn't have the internet. 14 years ago a vast majority of my class only used the internet from school, and school and the library were their only option. If you look at my school today I don't think there is a single household without internet, and a vast majority have high speed connections. Where I work I know of 3 people in the warehouse who didn't have an internet connection until
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              I think you missed the point. The parent was not arguing with the actual thesis that more people are getting their news online. The argument was that 10 years ago twenty-somethings still weren't reading newspapers, regardless of whether or not they had internet access. Speaking as someone who was twenty-something ten years ago or so, I tend to agree. I didn't read newspapers as a general rule, and even though I did have internet access, I didn't use it to get news either.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mcvos ( 645701 )

          One of the fastest growing Dutch news papers is directly aimed at 25-35 year old men who get most of their news online. I love it. It's a format that works well.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by ColdWetDog ( 752185 )

            One of the fastest growing Dutch news papers is directly aimed at 25-35 year old men who get most of their news online. I love it. It's a format that works well.

            I see. So. I think the general discussion is about newspapers. Not the thinly disguised escort service fliers that you pick up in most cities.

            • Re:What? (Score:4, Funny)

              by mcvos ( 645701 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:58AM (#30246062)

              I see. So. I think the general discussion is about newspapers. Not the thinly disguised escort service fliers that you pick up in most cities.

              Maybe it's because I live in a city where escort service fliers don't need to disguise themselves thinly?

        • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Triv ( 181010 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:15PM (#30247836) Journal

          I read the New York times every day. I'm 28. I know I'm in the minority, but I get things from a paper I don't get from a website or an rss feed. It's portable, it's easier on the eyes, it's got a crossword puzzle in it I can do with a pen and all that tactile stuff, but also it's better for my brain - the 'net is good at giving me information I'm looking for, but it blows at giving me information I didn't know I needed until I read the headline. I learn more from 15 minutes reading the paper on my commute every morning than I would get from an hour in front of the computer. YMMV.

      • I gotta tell you, the supermarket chain I frequent, Giant Eagle, is quite comfortable with presenting their weekly sale information in an electronic format, along with a variety of other services.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:21AM (#30245660) Homepage Journal

        Newspapers have several issues to deal with.
        1. Craigslist is killing them. Classified ads had to be a huge income stream. I know that just a single help wanted ad in my market was well over $100 and we are not a big market.
        2. Costs. They are expensive to print and deliver.
        I have not gotten the paper in years. At best they are worth it for the coupons but a web based or even better yet a mobile based way to get them would be much better. Plus my local supermarkets are now using direct mail to send those to me.
        I hate the format of a paper. It is too big to be easy to read. The pages are huge and most of it I just don't care about.
        The one thing I have to say that I miss is local news but I get that from a website now.
        Now here is what I wonder. How much news comes through Google? I tend to just go to or to get my news. I almost never search for news. I doubt that I will head to Bing anytime soon so yes I think this is all going to be a disaster. Will Microsoft be willing to pay everybody to jump to Bing? And will a few hold outs make some big money being the news source on Google and also being on Bing?
        Seems to me that is the risk they news services that do this run.

        • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:27AM (#30245742) Journal

          Craigslist is killing them.

          To be precise, their costs are killing them, because they can't compete with superior alternatives like Craigslist and other online advertising services.


          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ckaminski ( 82854 )
            Craigslist has already done in organizations like the Wantadvertiser which used to be HUGE in my area (New England). And Google could probably sue the whole lot of them for collusion if they do try to do this.

            Google already gives publishers a way out of caching pages. It's in their own best interests to take advantage of the capabilities the googlebot gives them.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BrokenHalo ( 565198 )
          Will Microsoft be willing to pay everybody to jump to Bing?

          Microsoft can do whatever deals they want with Murdoch and his friends, but the simple fact at the moment is that Bing is rather a poor example of a search engine, and people will vote with their mice.

          Every so often I try using Bing (in an attempt to be fair), but the relevance of its results is at best equivalent in to what I remember as typical of AltaVista back in in 1997. That's just not good enough. If the guys at Microsoft want Bing to b
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cthulu_mt ( 1124113 )
        The company I work for monitors and analysis the print ads that are published around the US. Most mid and large chains (Grocery, Drug, Mass) now publish their weekly circular online. Most also email the ads to customers or send notices when the website is updated.

        Our company is making a significant investment in tracking these online ads and not for nothing.

        P.S. If you shop at a large grocery chain its about 1 million dollars that changes hands each week for the items in ad.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Enderandrew ( 866215 )

        I just left a newspaper because all they were doing was repeatedly laying people off and giving out paycut after paycut. They talked about how they were doing better than most newspapers in the country, and yet revenue kept dropping more and more each quarter.

        I know that some newspapers faced bankruptcy for other reasons (The Chicago Tribune Company's equity was mortgaged for bad real estate deals) but we kept hearing about paper after paper going into bankruptcy.

        I've seen several magazines stop printing as

    • A newspaper is something that you pick up from the seat next to you on the subway so you can pass the time by doing the crossword.

    • A newspaper is fire-lighters in sheet form.
      Usually the paper is printed with troll articles, flame-bait articles and advertising.

    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      What is a newspaper?

      It's an outdated information distribution technology, which is in its death throes as we speak. Collections of articles were printed on paper, and distributed from printing plants to a network of retail outlets, and also to children (paperboys) who would deliver them to customers' homes.


    • by bazorg ( 911295 )
      It's the reading material with adverts they give away for free at Tube stations.
    • You've clearly never been to a fish 'n' chip shop.
    • Who is Bing Murdoch?

    • by remmelt ( 837671 )

      ...while Google's search engine 'prevents them from making decent money online... There is only one way that newspapers can break out of the prison...

      Or they could find other ways to make money with news online in this new century. Looking at the Netherlands, (Dutch online newspaper, started out as a news aggregator, employs its own journalists now) is doing fine. Bailing out of Google is bad for traffic, even if Bing would start to see more users. If there's something that newspapers do not want, it'

    • Certainly not a search engine. Google uses algorithms to index only content which they already put up for free.

      They cannot prevent Google from doing this. While they do comply with the Robots Exclusion Protocol, if they see that it is being abused only to inflict commercial damage to them, they might just decide to ignore it.

      Murdoch isn't concerned about the profitability of newspapers, he's driven many of them to ruin with his loss generating dumping prices for years.

  • When it comes to Google and other aggregators, newspapers face a sort of prisoners' dilemma. If one of them escapes, their competitors will pick up the traffic they lose. But if all of them stay, none of them will ever get enough traffic to make sufficient money. So they all stay in the prison, occasionally yelling insults at their jailer through the bars on the door.

    So ... the original prisoner's dilemma [] (if I recally my AI coursework) was basically comes down to two or more prisoner's arrested as suspects in a crime. They are immediately separated into different interrogation rooms. The police officers use every trick they can to get any of the prisoners to lay claim to committing the crime and receive a plea bargain if they testify against the other suspects. If no one caves, then everyone walks. Now, the important thing to note here is that if one suspect caves and the other n-1 suspects don't, then that suspect receives a sub-optimal reward of a lighter sentence while those that did not own up to the crime receive very harsh penalties. And so you have a dilemma ... did one of your crew rat you out already? Should you take the guaranteed three months in prison versus a potential ten years?

    The important thing is that one rogue actor could ruin it for everyone.

    So the analogy seems to imply that newspapers have taken a suboptimal goal (being in jail) ... but the most important problem is that no one knows if the current situation is a suboptimal goal or optimal goal. And no one's going to find out until they leave Google. If a single newspaper leaves Google, they ruin it for themselves (unlike the prisoner's dilemma) and no one else. In fact, the others might even benefit from that.

    What this is a closer analogy to is the MLB strike you may (or may not care about) remember. Basically the baseball players didn't think they were making enough bank so they went on strike. If anyone of them said, "Screw it, I'm leaving the league, I'm going to literally take my bat and ball and go elsewhere," then they would have been broke. But the whole league went on strike, they could have formed a new league, they could have went to a different league, they could have entered talks with the European league to open leagues in the US, etc.

    The newspapers should continue to court Microsoft and play the two search leaders off against each other. Also, I'm no robots.txt expert but I think there is a disallow from certain domains syntax they can use to block Google, Microsoft or white list one of the two. Another strategy might be to go on strike and have all newspapers request to be removed from Google for one week. Let the system break down and then enter negotiations with the giant.

    One thing is pretty clear, they must unionize/unify and act as a single entity in either leaving or negotiating. And I don't really see that happening. They might be able to negotiate between Microsoft and Google on a case by case basis but Google is still too much larger than Bing to do that.

    • by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:41AM (#30245320) Homepage

      I don't think Google will care in the slightest if all the newspapers removed themselves from its index. There are still plenty of online only news sites, specialist media sites and so on that Google can point to. If people know they want to read one of Rupert Murdoch's offerings, they would go there direct, not via Google, and most Google customers aren't going to go to Yahoo or Bing to compare the search results they get.

      • Google News (Score:3, Informative)

        by MikeFM ( 12491 )

        Google is big enough to just buy or create their own newspaper. If the newspapers cut themselves off from Google there is no reason for Google not to compete with them. Hire their own journalistic team to create high-quality content that people actually want to see instead of the dribble in most newspapers. They could take advantage of technology to be something between a newspaper (text) and tv news (multimedia).

    • never happen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:43AM (#30245344)

      Will the BBC join? No! So international news is hopeless. Do people care about local news?

      What if google endowed a nonprofit news organization? Or just bought wikinews the rights to use AP feeds?

      • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:32AM (#30245808) Homepage

        Google already licenses the AP feeds. Click any AP story and you go to the Google-hosted AP text.

        This is why this scheme is NEVER going to work. Google already licenses AP, which creates 75% of the content in all these papers anyway. Also there are many major international players, like the NPR and BBC and CBC, that will never opt out of Google, as they are not-for-profits in the first place.

        The end result is everyone will get their local news from NPR/CBC/BBC, and all these newspapers will just go under FASTER.

        No one will pay for news online. Give it up.

        • by whencanistop ( 1224156 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:07PM (#30246134) Homepage Journal
          Unless Murdoch comes up with an ingenious way of reducing funding for the BBC. Say for example, striking a deal with the opposition politcal party to cover them in a complementary way in their press, in exchange for reduced funding of the BBC when they get into power [].

          Maybe we should ask Andy Coulson [] about that one (ex editor of News Of the World - a Murdoch title - and current 'Strategist' for the Conservatives). If he can buy out the UK's free source, he can buy out any other 'not for profit' options.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Wire stories are the key to understanding what's going on:

          The Internet, mostly, is allowing us to make more efficient versions of existing systems. In the past, you bought the Local Paper Gazette because that's what was available. The LPG bought wire stories to cover national and international news...and there was no other real way for you to get those stories. Newspapers wanted to feel like they were doing a service, so sometimes they'd adjust the wire stories a little with a few quotes from local politici

      • Google News already pays the Associated Press for the right to post AP news stories on their (Google's) site. (Example picked at random: Climate debate heats up Caribbean summit [] ) Of course, those articles appear *ON* instead of simply being a title/blurb pointing to another website. It really sounds whiny for Murdoch (and other newspaper execs) to say "Google is sending us millions of people but we don't k

      • by bheer ( 633842 )

        > Will the BBC join? No! So international news is hopeless. Do people care about local news?

        Actually, in America, people care primarily for local news. But TV affiliates aren't threatening to delist from Google and those cover local news too. But yes, for world news, there's the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al-Jazeera, NPR, CNN, Xinhua, IBN... ol' Rupert has delusions of grandeur if he thinks himself indispensable. Hell, betcha and *won't* delist, because they're not a newspaper.

        > What

    • by jDeepbeep ( 913892 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:23AM (#30245686)

      Also, I'm no robots.txt expert but I think there is a disallow from certain domains syntax they can use to block Google, Microsoft or white list one of the two.

      To block Google from all site pages:
      User-agent: Googlebot
      Disallow: /

      To block Google indexing a certain page (exchange brackets for > / <):
      [meta name="googlebot" content="noindex"]

      To be less specific in the user-agent line of robots.txt:
      User-agent: *

    • by SmilingBoy ( 686281 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:34AM (#30245824)
      You forgot about the most important aspect of the prisoner's dilemma: Whatever the others do, you are better off to confess. Typically, the dilemma is presented with two prisoners: - If both keep silent -> both get one year jail based on weak evidence - If both confess -> both get three years jail - If one confesses, and the other keeps silent -> the one that confesses walks out free, the other one gets ten years jail Now what do you do if you are the prisoner. There are two possibilities what the other one has done: - If the other one has kept silent, you will get one year jail if you also keep silent, and walk out free if you confess -> Better to confess in this case - If the other one has confessed, you will get ten years jail if you keep silent, and three years if you confess -> Better to confess in this case So irrespective of what the other one is doing, you are better off confessing. So the only rational choice is to confess. Since both prisoners face the same incentives, both will confess and both get three years jail. There is no way for them to reach the clearly superior outcome of only one year of jail for both of them.
    • by b4upoo ( 166390 )

      Wouldn't it be easy for Google or anyone else to bypass a block and use a third party to mine that data? It seems to me that as long as their data is open to one it will sort of remain open to all.

  • No Dilemma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by headkase ( 533448 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:32AM (#30245266)
    There is no dilemma, there is only change. The Internet is a tsunami that is roaring over all aspects of our society. In the content industries it is clearing land for some while washing away the livelihoods of others. It is a force of its own. You can manage somewhat as you go but one thing is certain: it is now impossible to stop it, we have passed the tipping point. You might as well curse the wind, or you could adjust your sails to the best of your abilities.
    • by Smegly ( 1607157 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:37AM (#30245294) mainstream media free google news search hits. Let me support some motivated, independent amateur investigative reporters... I have had waay enough of the corporate parrot news line for the self-proclaimed "professionals".
    • Hope (Score:3, Funny)

      by headkase ( 533448 )
      There is reason for hope however. Like all complex systems we will find a new equilibrium until something like this happens again. We are in the transition period right now into the Information Age. A new order will establish itself but because of the stochastic nature of the process we do not know what it will be. Also, there will be a much higher frequency of bifurcation throughout our fabric as a whole. But overall the equilibrium should be stable. If you knew where to look these things are apparen
      • One would hope that there might be equilibrium, as though this were an algebraic equation to be balanced. It might not be such an equation. What may turn out is something completely different.

        Any of the search engines is likely to 'respect' robots.txt. Not doing so has a grey area of possible penalties. The newspapers have had a formula that's been around for centuries. It boils down to global, regional, and local news, coupled to features and driven by copy sales and ads. Classified ads are now eaten by Cr

        • You are correct. The equilibrium may not be stable. It may be a form of perpetual chaos. That would be very bad. I tend to focus on the positive. I have faith that no matter what we can work through our challenges. Even if that means returning to an agrarian society. Incidentally, I do believe completely electronic will be where it settles: it is simply the most efficient use of resources to ignore.
    • WTF are you talking about? Where is the car?

      • The matrix surrounds us, it penetrates us.... But it is not there, it is an illusion. The car is our society and we are but passengers. There are only atoms everything beyond that is an abstraction and therefore relative to everything else. When comparing abstractions you can establish equivalence. My brain causes my mind. My mind is in an abstract reality of its own. So is yours. They are examples of systems. So other systems also being abstract share a reality that is as valid as yours or mine bu
        • Thats one way to look at Zen anyway, Japan realized it first but right now they also have a 99% conviction rate in their courts so they still have their own problems to work out... Anyway! Back on topic.

          Forgive me while I stare at a shiny.
  • Unfortunately, it seems the newspapers can't make money. (I know I haven't bought one in years.) As such, they're turning to desperate measures in their death throws. It is sad, since future generations may or may not be able to look up information as readily in newspapers which are not sufficiently archived.
  • Inflict Damage? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Yuckinator ( 898499 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:36AM (#30245284)

    Really? Losing links to the various News Corp sites will "inflict damage" on Google's business?


    • Re:Inflict Damage? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by digitalgiblet ( 530309 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:17AM (#30245624) Homepage Journal

      I think the "inflict damage" comment meant if a MAJORITY of news sources pulled out of Google, not just News Corp.

      I didn't wriite it, I'm just trying to interpret...

      The point of the article is that unless virtually ALL of the news sources leave at once, the result will really just be that those who are left will profit by the others voluntarily removing themselves from the competition.

      Personally I think it is a gutsy but stupid move...

  • If newspapers opt out of google, they will opt out of existence - already few people want to use them for news anyway, making them harder to ever read or find will just destroy readership further.

    • by mrsquid0 ( 1335303 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:48AM (#30245368) Homepage

      This is the key issue, "few people want to use them for news". The way for newspapers to survive is to stop trying to provide up-to-the-minute news and concentrate on in-depth, reliable reporting. Newspapers are idea for covering local issues that do not get the attention of big media. They are also ideal for sports news and providing a forum for informed debate. The big strength of a newspaper is that there is a gate-keeper to prevent rubbish from being published. If newspapers can take advantage of that they can not only survive, but prosper. If newspapers simply try to out-internet the internet they are doomed.

    • by tixxit ( 1107127 )

      few people want to use them for news anyway

      I'm sorry, but where else would you go for news (especially local)? Yeah, some blogs are fairly informative, but many cite newspapers. Most blogs are run as spare-time projects by people with day jobs. Newspapers are run by people who do it for 8+ hours a day. I think the readership decline has much more to do with apathy then the internet.

  • NPR, BBC anyone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onionman ( 975962 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:38AM (#30245298)

    Maybe, just maybe, consumers who value actual news over sensationalized claptrap are finding that the opinion pieces and "human interest" stories which dominate Murdoch's offerings are fungible commodities.

    Good bye Wall Street Journal. You were a reputable publication at one time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xest ( 935314 )

      This is why the viewpoint in the summary is flawed. I do not believe for example that the BBC would be allowed to delist from Google due to laws governing it because it's publicly funded and can't show competition bias.

      I doubt the BBC is unique in this situation either, and the reality is for every thousand companies that delist from Google and follow Murdoch, there'll still be a BBC picking up the search results.

      Users wont stop using Google, they'll just pick whatever the first result is on a search whethe

    • I must be one hell of a liberal, because I actually do get most of my news from NPR, BBC World Service, NYT, and slashdot.

      • by mcvos ( 645701 )

        I must be one hell of a liberal, because I actually do get most of my news from NPR, BBC World Service, NYT, and slashdot.

        You pinko liberal commie! Why do you hate freedom so much?

  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:39AM (#30245312)

    When the newspaper corporations continue to spout how the visitors brought in by the search engines are worthless because those people are drive-by visitors, I have to wonder about their content. If someone is brought in by a search engine they should be considered an opportunity. If you are not taking the time to ensure your design and content are meant to draw those opportunities into a goal, well, I think you're looking at this from the wrong way.

    This is yet another reason why the newspaper industry just doesn't get it. Google gets it and so do the consumers. Microsoft doesn't get anything more than the bone they are being thrown.

    I wish people would stop reporting on this story as, honestly, it's just a lame attempt at getting attention.

  • Relevancy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Erich ( 151 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:43AM (#30245342) Homepage Journal
    Isn't Google an AP licensee?

    So even if Google doesn't index, say, the Wall Street Journal, can't Google still get the same news contributions form the AP newswire?

    Or is there something special about AP license terms or something?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think I recall seeing something about that.

      I don't know about most people, but I stopped reading the major newspapers (even online) late last year when they became nothing but AP parrots with weird spin jobs.

      I mean, I know they were always AP parrots before, but it got *really* bad with the economy. The obsession with very specific stories is completely out of hand.

      I'll stick with just the direct AP feeds, thank you.

  • In the meantime, Steve Ballmer is more than happy to play along with Murdoch because although a deal with News Corps would reduce the basic profitability of Microsoft's search business, it would inflict far more damage on Google than on Microsoft."

    So how would a deal with News Corps reduce the basic profitability of Microsoft's search business?

    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      In several previous stories Murdoch apparently wanted money from search engine for the "privilege" of directing internet users to his stories.

      "Reverse Adsense", if you will...

  • by Darkman, Walkin Dude ( 707389 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:48AM (#30245366) Homepage
    This is going to be as funny as hell.
  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <yburxyno>> on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:51AM (#30245398)
    Newspapers and the news have become a commodity, they just don't realize it yet. When I can read 8 different newspapers with the exact same AP story, the differential between the newspapers becomes the experience. Newspapers are victims of their own business tactics. By removing local reporting resources, and getting most stories from the Reuters or AP, there is very little to differentiate one news source from another. Newspapers have two choices:
    1. Create more original content (ie create content by hiring reporters)
    2. Create a better experience for the reader (is your website pleasant to use)

    Neither one of these has anything to do with Google, however surviving Google (or it's replacement) requires doing one and or the other. The fact that Google is the delivery mechanism for much of their traffic is moot. Changing the delivery mechanism won't change the fundamentals behind the issue. What newspapers need to do is learn how to keep the traffic they get once visitors find their site.

    • by symbolic ( 11752 )

      This needs to be modded up. The problem is much more systemic than where the traffic comes from. It's like a small group of clueless idiots trying to figure out which garden hose to use to try and stop a nuclear meltdown.

    • One wonders why the AP and Reuters allow newspapers to put their stuff online. AP and Reuters have websites of their own.

    • +1 Insightful.

      That's one thing the Interweb told us, by easy browsing of different online versions of various newspapers: they now just display the same news as everyone else they just bought from a common source. In fact they're just glorified RSS readers for the AP/Reuters feed.

      And then they wonder why their business model fails.

    • yet. When I can read 8 different newspapers with the exact same AP story, the differential between the newspapers becomes the experience.

      Sigh. I don't know why I bother with reading any article on Slashdot that involves newspapers.

      Your opinion, like your perspective, is embarrassingly narrow. If you think a paper like the NY Times or the Washington post is a collection of AP stories, you obviously haven't read either, and are blissfully unaware of why it is they are read.

      As for "8 different newspapers wit

      • Actually, I do happen to read those particular papers and the WSJ on a routine basis because they have more than canned AP stories. If something important is happening in the news, I like to get different takes on it, even routinely reading news sites outside the US. So yes, I can go through 8 sites trying to find a second article on something. Your baseless generalization doesn't change my point though.

        My point stands, most major papers anymore offer very little to differentiate themselves from other paper

    • When I can read 8 different newspapers with the exact same AP story, the differential between the newspapers becomes the experience ... Create more original content (ie create content by hiring reporters)

      The problem is the cost of real journalism and the same duplicability you cite. If someone can summarize your well researched article and cite you as the source(which they should be able to do) then you don't have "original content" anymore. The internet has greatly reduced that time window of originality and the cost to republish.

      Focusing on local news helps a bit, but you still need paying journalism for the major stories everyone's covering.

  • by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:51AM (#30245408)
    Even if what seems like a critical mass ouf publishers start delisting from Google, Google's search engine and advertising power and weight is such that other publishers and smaller news sites would simply move in and fill the void. Google might also be more than happy to get less hassle. It certainly won't work if publishers who want to delist start wanting to charge for news, and Microsoft will simply be pouring money down a drain if they pick up that slack and pay the publishers themselves.

    It's a horse that won't run and the only reason why Murdoch is banging on about it is because News Corp is making some sizeable losses with no end in sight.
  • by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:51AM (#30245410) Homepage Journal

    Carr has railed about this problem before, and he's still just as wrong as he ever was.

    Here's his analysis of Murdoch's first pronouncements [] on the topic back in April. And here's why he's just as wrong now [] as he was then.

    (I later turned that post into a newspaper column [] in the country where I live. It's longer and slightly more polished, but more focused on our particular issues, which aren't necessarily germane to the larger debate.)

  • We get the Philadelphia Inquirer and they give us the weekly paper basically for free. My wife wanted just the weekend paper for the fliers for shopping, and I don't feel like going to the end of the driveway to just pick up the paper and throw it out, but they were so enthusiastic about giving us the weekly paper for free we said ok. With that in mind, I can see how papers may feel the need to try and take some control back, however I don't see how this works unless they are hoping to just use it as a ba
  • Maybe I am dumb... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by space_jake ( 687452 )
    How does moving off of Google to Bing make them more money? I know Microsoft is paying them but I still don't see how this beneficial. If they kill Google and Bing fills in the void marketshare wise won't they just have the same problem?
  • by snwod ( 721177 )
    So, let me get this straight, Fox News is threatening to remove their "news stories" from showing up in the feeds I see at Google News? That's it? I see no problem here.
  • You may wonder why...

    If the content they provide can ONLY be gotten from the Wall Street Journal, then Murdoch is onto something here. if not, then I am sorry they are in trouble.

    Just answer me: What can I get from the WSJ that I cannot get from anywhere else?

  • Murdoch is a master salesman, he'll continue to milk this to generate interest for as long as he can.

    A more interesting scenario would be if Google started paying for the wire feeds instead of linking to the biased rewrites of them from CNN, Fox, NYT, MSNBC, etc. But I doubt we'll see that either because the newspapers know it would hurt them even more than Google aggregating the stories.

  • No problemo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by otter42 ( 190544 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:25AM (#30245712) Homepage Journal

    Alright, so some American newspapers put up walled gardens. No problem, I'll just read the foreign press. BBC does a good job, and so do many others.

  • Newspapers seem to be doing everything possible to fail. News becoming a commodity - no problem, let's get all our news from wire services and the NYT / Wash. Post. Free opinion / analysis readily available on the web - lets move opinion journalism to page one. Readership falling - put our product behind a pay wall and raise prices.

    Here's what they SHOULD be doing:

    1) National / international news is a commodity. Good state and local news is harder to obtain - report IN DEPTH on state and local stories.

  • If the interviewer asked Mr. Murdoch, so what do you think HTML stands for; what would he say? Does he know what HTML stands for? The reason I ask is that I suspect he does not know the words the acronym represents. In fact based on this, I am not sure he understands what the internet is and the fact that not only are there pages, but there are links. In fact the links and relationships between information is to be considered just as 'valuable' as the information itself. Without those relationships, wi

  • If there were only a few newspaper providers, this might work. But there's too many for cooperation in my opinion. And sooner or later (assuming generously it hasn't happened years ago) someone is going to figure out how to make money from that Google traffic. That means you'll have news providers who won't block Google traffic because it would lose them money. At that point, you no longer have the Prisoner's dilemma. Cooperation is no longer the best long term strategy.
  • > ...if a critical mass of newspapers opt out of Google's search engine
    > simultaneously, they would suddenly gain substantial market power.

    It is called "a combination in restraint of trade". Combinations in restraint of trade are illegal in the USA.

  • "while Google's search engine 'prevents them from making decent money online — by massively fragmenting traffic, by undermining brand power, and by turning news stories into fungible commodities.'"

    - How about offering accidental readers incentive to visit your main page more often?
    - How about leveraging Google's search results to boost your own brand power?

    If you wait on Google to boost your own brand then you're doing it wrong.
    And it's the newspapers that treat news as commodities, not Google.

    Let's n

  • its really newspapers versus the internet and the newspapers are going to lose. If all of the newspapers together blocked google tomorrow I suspect that the majority of people using google wouldn't notice. The problem for newspapers is that they neither create nor own the news which is their major product. They are merely a distribution channel for that news. While they have served us well for many years as a good and professional distribution channel there are now so many other ways to get that same news t
  • Biased, targetted news sells well. Those are the facts. Whether you prefer Fox News or Huffington Post, people enjoy going to a news source that tells people what they want to hear.

    Newspapers need to find their niche in targetting local news. Here in Omaha, the big news is stories on the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

    Furthermore, I know that I am fairly agnostic about generic news, but I do search out certain authors I enjoy reading. I just left a newspaper, but I often encouraged them to do more to brand their writers. Put more photos of writers in the paper. Push those huge bylines. If someone really likes reading Tom Shatel (local sports columnist for the paper I just left) then they will specifically look for his content.

    Furthermore, Google has already said they want to pay newspapers for the content they produce. Our stories already go into an AP feed that others aggregate for free. When big stories happen (our mall shooting last year for instance) we had people all over the world recycling the World-Herald's story. Some linked back, and others didn't. When the BBC recycled the story, they didn't pay the World-Herald for it. However, Google is saying they do want to pay for content.

    So how is Google this evil entity that newspapers must rail against? If they were smart, they'd sign up with Google to start selling their content today, and start collecting checks. Newspapers who want to survive in the new market must transition somewhat to a content producer rather than focusing solely on selling a printed product.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky