Friday, May 20, 2022

Google rolls up newspaper acquisition plan

The idea of Google looking into buying a newspaper and then backing off would be funny, if it weren’t a case of the killer returning to the scene of the crime. And trying to marry one of the survivors.

Sure, the Internet may have doomed newspapers right from the start, but double body blows inflicted by Google and Craigslist to newspaper ad revenue certainly haven’t helped.

Google’s interest in the news business is natural enough, given the amount of news its search engine consumes.

Having won the ad war, Google’s purchase of a major newspaper might have helped undo some of the damage inflicted on media outlets many consider necessary to uncover the excesses of government and protect democracy around the world.

Alas, it is not to be.

This strikes me as a bit like one of those WWII u-boat movies where, having sunk the Liberty ship, the Germans pick-up survivors. Except they never did that and neither, seemingly, will Google.

Google boss Eric Schmidt said the company backed away because the newspaper ad model is obsolete, newspapers remain too expensive and/or are too debt-burdened, and employing real reporters would cross the line between Google being a technology company and a content company.

Of course, what Google really is–based on where it makes money–is a media company that makes money off other people’s content and is mostly unwilling to share revenue with content providers.

The traffic it generates for news sites is compensation enough, Google contends, even as those sites find it ever more difficult to hire reporters for covering serious news.

Schmidt told the Financial Times that Google will work to help newspapers by improving the technology available to them, better allowing them to connect with (and monetize) readers. The suggestion is the technology will not be available to all newspapers, just those Google considers worth saving, including the Washington Post.

David Coursey left the daily newspaper business even before the Internet exploded into our lives. He tweets as dcoursey and can be reached via www.coursey.com/content.

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