Hoping we readers win the Google/AP/News Media Battle
I loved the headline in Doug MacMillan's BusinessWeek article, "Can the AP Out-Google Google?" It perfectly describes the stance the venerable wire service is taking with its new service.
"When it comes to compiling online news, the AP wants to out-Google Google. The Web search giant "has a wacky algorithm" for collecting news stories, AP Chief Executive Tom Curley says in an interview. "It does not lead people to authoritative sources."
As an alternative, Curley plans to create "landing pages" that would host articles from any news sources that allow their headlines on the site. Participating outlets would share revenue generated by ads placed on those pages, "monetizing content in an ecosystem that would be different from the Google ecosystem," Curley says. The sites would include both national and local media outlets. "There are some pretty exciting ways to showcase some of the core features of local newspapers," Curley adds."
The article goes on to weigh the pros and cons of the move, given the scarce online ad dollars at present that the AP and any other news content source would be vying for with Google and other search sites. They would need to attract readers to their own pages, as most information searches just naturally begin with an aggregation search portal these days. They would also have to keep their content off of Google and other search sites so the only way they can be located is through their own site. There is a major rub in that approach, though.
"That approach is likely to alienate readers who are used to browsing the Web however they choose, says Jeff Jarvis, director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism and author of the book What Would Google Do? Jarvis says this is akin to asking: "How can we keep people from doing what they want?""
Why not band together with other news content providers to negotiate better terms with Google so there is a win/win, Jarvis suggests, saying this could make Google even better for searchers and clearly flag who was first to a story?
I thought Jarvis's idea was intriguing, as it would make sure the ultimate news consumers benefit with the best possible content that is accurate and authoritative and not skewed because someone pays Google more than someone else for its listings. But then I read the rant from Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, that was cited on Silicon Alley Insider. Getting to the heart of Sullivan's contention and removing the profanity, his point was as follows:
"Sullivan explains to newspapers why they should love Google: Because without it, they'd be even more screwed."
He goes on to say it's just too late for the news media to try to rein in Google to save themselves. Trying to battle Google now, as the AP seems to be doing, is futile and could hasten their demise.
I hope Sullivan is wrong and that the AP has enough success with this move to get other news content creators to team up with them, as Jarvis suggests. I am not anti-Google, although I'll admit I do worry about any company that becomes too all powerful in any industry. As an avid user of search engines to do research for my clients and my own writing, I am often frustrated by the articles that pop up first and the ones that are buried in the group of 267 articles below. I absolutely want to know who was the first to report the news and I want to understand their sources and their credibility. I want to know that the best news organizations have vetted a story with enough sources to make me feel it is the most solid assessment of the situation I can read. I often dig through the huge list of headlines to find the top publications like the WSJ or the NYTimes to get their view on a story . I subscribe to their RSS readers and Twitter feeds because I trust their reporting. If the news organizations can pressure Google and other search engines to make it a priority to improve search engine results so I don't have to do all that digging, I'm all for it as a consumer. Let the games begin.