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The future of newspapers

Zafar Anjum | Dec. 4, 2009
Falling revenues, increasing user demand for free online content, and Googles misappropriation of stories on the Web threaten the survival of newspapers in the digital age. Is Googles First Click Free programme part of the answer?

Referring to Googles First Click Free Programme, Cohen writes: Participating publishers allow the crawler to index their subscription content, then allow users who find one of those articles through Google News or Google Search to see the full page without requiring them to register or subscribe. The user's first click to the content is free, but when a user clicks on additional links on the site, the publisher can show a payment or registration request. First, Click Free is a great way for publishers to promote their content and for users to check out a news source before deciding whether to pay.

Google has another solution to this problem: In addition to First Click Free, we offer another solution: We will crawl, index and treat as free any preview pagesgenerally the headline and first few paragraphs of a storythat they make available to us. This means that our crawlers see the exact same content that will be shown for free to a user. Because the preview page is identical for both users and the crawlers, it's not cloaking. We will then label such stories as subscription in Google News. The ranking of these articles will be subject to the same criteria as all sites in Google, whether paid or free.

These solutions sound workable but as a blogger has pointed out, even with the First Click Free programme, Google is going to keep its core business model intact: organizing the worlds information without having to pay for any of it, continuing to siphon off the revenues that once kept newspapers alive.

The interesting thing to see is how Murdoch and other media companies react to Googles offered solution.

Andrew offers a publishers angle on this: If I had the global clout of Murdoch, I would threaten and beat Google in an attempt to get them to surrender part of their revenue that is related to searches involving my news outlets.

Why not push them to pay if you can get it from them? Its just business, he argues.

Murdoch has a point too. Producing journalism is expensive, Murdoch said in Washington. When this work is misappropriated . . . it destroys the economics of producing high-quality content.

Zafar Anjum is the online editor of MIS Asia dot com.  


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