Is there an upside when Google News discontinues service?


UPDATE December 15th: Several media outlets including Business Insider and TechCrunch  are reporting “The Spanish Newspaper Publishers’ Association (AEDE) issued a statement last night (December 14th) saying that Google News was “not just the closure of another service given its dominant market position”, recognising that Google’s decision: “will undoubtedly have a negative impact on citizens and Spanish businesses”.” The AEDE is the primary backer for the new legislation.

The Business Insider reports: “A spokeswoman for AEDE, Irene Lanzaco, told the Spain Report that the group is not asking Google to take a step back and claims it has always been open to negotiations. Lanzaco argues that “Google has not taken a neutral stance” and also reveals Spain’s newspapers have been constantly talking to AEDE.”

It appears the industry was not expecting such a dramatic move on Google’s part. As I noted below this is not a revenue generating business for Google. It appears that had the AEDE performed more due diligence in this instance they may have counseled for a different agreement that served both the publisher and Google thereby avoiding a “negative impact on citizens and Spanish businesses.”

On December 16th Google will discontinue it’s Google News service for Spain as a direct result of a new Spanish copyright law which goes into effect January 1st. This is the first time a local version of the news aggregation service is being removed from

any country.

The new copyright legislation requires aggregators to pay for re-publishing headlines or snippets of news to the publisher. This impacts readers around the globe who are seeking links to articles from any Spanish news publisher on Google News.

Copyright Law Restrictions

Spain is not the first country pushing back on news aggregators to pay licensing fees when they publish snippets of news articles. In Germany this has resulted in a law which went into effect in October that requires publishers who want their content to continue to show up on services like Google to provide their explicit permission to do so. Although initially resistant publishers provided that permission to Google when they observed significant drops in their web traffic.

France and Belgian publishers reached an agreement with Google which resulted in the creation of a $74M fund to help French publishers with their digital operations. (via the New York Times)

The new legislation in Spain does not offer this opt-out option. In fact aggregators can face hefty fines if they choose to display content without paying the publisher in the neighborhood of $744K per infraction.

News Organizations Leverage Readership to Generate Revenue

The news industry has seen declining numbers in both readership and revenue at ever advancing speeds ever since the Internet took hold. The competition for readership used to be how well the front page above the fold caught potential readers attention. A captivating headline would compel consumers to “pick up the paper.” Circulation numbers drove advertising rates which fueled growth and profits. The old model worked.

That was then and this is now and the digital age has broken the old model. A good headline might get the average reader to invest in reading the first two paragraphs, but not always the entire article let alone more of the paper. The paper is no longer a physical entity to be passed around – left on subways, buses or airplane seat backs for a second or third person to read. Reaching the reader  has become harder even in our connected world because there are more services clamoring for our attention.

There is no upside when Google News discontinues service.

  • The publishers lose out on web traffic and readership.
  • Professionals need to pay for an aggregator or subscribe to multiple news outlets.
  • Copyright protects the content but fewer people are aware of it so it has a smaller impact than intended.

5 Facts about Google News

  1. 70 International Editions
  2. 35 languages are covered
  3. Launched in September 2002 with 4,000 sources. Today over 50,000.
  4. Google News no longer licenses material from any news service. (Agence France Presse (2005) and the Associated Press (2006) brought copyright infringement suits which resulted in licensing agreements.)
  5. It’s FREE and generates no revenue

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