The Counter Argument for Newspapers: Why newspapers should opt out of Google News or Force Rev Share Agreements
It is accepted wisdom within the search marketing community that newspapers should be in Google News and be happy for the downstream traffic. It’s common to see an article about how the newspapers want a rev share with Google, or complain about Google news, and then have the search marketing community rip apart the newspapers as dinosaurs.
There really are a few sides to this argument, and I just want to present the a different side. Please note, this does not mean I agree with everything I’m about to write – it just means I think people should see a few different viewpoints before coming to a conclusion.
Why Google News Works
Why do you go to Google news instead of a newspaper directly? The answer is simple: aggregators will show you a variety of information and then you can choose what you wish to read.
Google wants authority content in Google news such as New York Times, Washington Post, CNet, etc so that their news aggregation is complete. Imagine a Google news with the top 50 papers missing. The service would not be nearly as good and they would lose users. Therefore, Google needs completeness in their results to please users.
Let’s look at a few different scenarios and how the results could play out:
Scenario: Top 50 newspapers pull their feeds from Google News
What would happen if the top 50 newspapers and authority review sites excluded Google news from including their content? While many people like to say bloggers make the news, it’s not totally true. Many bloggers comment on the news and then link back to an authority newspaper for the actual results. I love bloggers; however, I do not want to see the true investigative journalist die. The consequences of losing the group of trained reporters will be larger than most imagine.
Google news is still free; however, the completeness of their coverage will suffer. Therefore, you would end up with three types of users:
- Those who go to the newspaper site directly
- Those who will use another aggregator
- Those who will use Google news because it’s free
From a newspapers perspective, Group 1 has the highest monetization value. That group might actually buy a subscription. The newspapers still need to reach group 2 in a different manner. Group 3 is a tough group to monetize as free has it’s own value and this group may never pay for anything. This would not be a group of users the newspapers should worry about at present.
What if the top 50 newspapers pull their feeds from all news aggregators?
The top newspapers would have a harder time getting newer users. The results of such an action would be huge competition between the newspapers to bring users to their websites using other advertising means. This additional advertising costs will offset any subscription gains.
In addition, all the newspapers will have to trust each other. If just one or two broke from the group and offered their services to the news aggregators, the others would have to follow suit. This is a slippery slope that I don’t think has any chance of working.
Yahoo Newspaper Consortium agrees to only syndicate their news to Yahoo News
Yahoo has an agreement with a significant number of newspapers that covers quite an array of services. Let’s forget the spread of services and create our own scenario. What if the top 50 newspapers only allowed their results to be shown in Yahoo News, and in return Yahoo either paid the newspapers or did some sort of revenue split with them. What would happen?
- Yahoo news would become the authority news aggregator
- Group 1 will split into those who switch to Yahoo news and those who access the newspaper site directly
- Most of Group 2 will migrate to Yahoo news
- The freebie group 3 will split into those who use Yahoo news (assuming it’s still free) and continuing to stay with Google news
This is an interesting scenario. It seems there are many winners here (except other news aggregators). If the newspapers could get to this point, then they could force other news aggregators into rev share or licensing deals so that the other aggregators could keep up with Yahoo.
An alternate scenario would be the newspapers syndicate their news to only a paid news aggregator, what would happen then?
- Paid aggregator would become the authority news aggregator, but will not become the default news source as it will be paid
- Group 1 will split into those who pay the newspaper vs pay the aggregator
- Group 2 will split into those using a paid vs free aggregator
- This group will continue to use Google news
Which is the best scenario?
The downstream traffic that a news aggregator receives from news aggregators is tremendous. It’s not a traffic source that many newspapers would be willing to lose. However, if they could get paid for their content by the aggregator and still receive the traffic, don’t they now live in the best of both worlds.
I think the Yahoo (and I just used Yahoo as an example, it could be any of the news aggregators, including Google) licensing deal could be very interesting for newspapers. It will lead to a traffic loss for sometime as Yahoo would have to create an advertising campaign to let people know of the Yahoo news benefit, users have to switch their news aggregators over time, etc. However, after the short term losses, the long term gains could be a more sustainable model for the newspapers.
I do believe the newspapers need to change their business models somewhat. However, while the business model is changing – I do not want to see a loss of solid news coverage.
The newspapers can achieve some of these other models; but they really need to work together first. That might be the trickiest part of the entire equation.