Sunday, September 09, 2012

French and German News Publishers Want More

Sometimes it’s as if someone has only seen one side of the argument and proceeds to go half cock into resolving only what they see withoutout stepping back and taking in the wider picture and implications. How many times have we witnessed knee jerk reactions and in-trenched positions that have unravelled once people have taken a more measured viewpoint?

The French publishers originally launched their hostility at Google claiming that they and other search engines were republishing headlines and the first paragraph of articles without compensating them - the provider of the content. It is easy to see the delima as one service wants to be seen as the source and to get the hits that they can potentially monetarise, whilst the other wishes to index a broad range on content in order to provide a single portal and get the hits, that they can monotorise.  

Then in steps a government, who probably has been heavily lobbied by one side and we start to slide into a 'hotch potch' of unworkable or counter productive legislation. Last week the German cabinet gave its support to a draft law aimed to extend copyright protection to snippets of news articles republished by search engines. It would allow publishers charge search engines such as Google for the republishing of headlines and first paragraphs of articles. In essence the French and German publishers want to share in the revenue that Google earns from advertising displayed alongside their news snippets. They also believe that a headline and summary of an article that is published on Google News is often sufficient to satisfy the reader. The result they claim, is that the reader then doesn't click through to the publishers website, who then loses potential advertising revenue.

So one could first question why the publishers haven’t created their own collective news service? Is the Google service sufficient, or do people actually click through? What would be the equitable revenue share the publishers seek? Do the publishers want the share revenue or be paid per article hit? The questions go on and soon become as irrelevant as asking any TV news or radio channel for a share of news related revenues that they earn alongside the news. Google aren’t pretending the news is theirs, nor are they divulging the whole story. They are merely serving up a snippet. If that snippet didn’t exist how much traffic would even find its way to half the publishers who are demanding payment for being 'ignored' and bypassed today?

What would be the implications of extending this Franco German logic past news and magazines to other media such as books. If Amazon hadn’t pulled the industry through the metadata hedge, we still would have limited jackets on display and ‘search inside’ would be a bridge too far for many. Would book publishers now demand a fee from Amazon for creating a jacket, or search inside library that sells their content? The question of book reviews and fair use of what is basically marketing material by third parties is a very interesting point.

Sometimes we all have to recognise that the Internet is about connectivity and linking information to add value. It is about creating a ‘quid pro quo’ environment where different parties, that may have different business models and drivers, help each other for mutual benefit. Google makes money from advertising, publishers make money from publishing. Google merely uses snippets and gives full linkage and accreditation to them. They do not plagiarise the work, pass it off as theirs, or publish the full work, and they provide the publisher in effect with ' a free advert' and the more the publisher is indexed and seen, the more their brand and reputation is enhanced.

It would be perfectly responsible for publishers who don’t want to be indexed to opt out, but how many really would?  

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