Google 5, Newspapers 0

Among the many things worth reading this week, there’s this from Will Oremus in Slate. Using a chart that demonstrates that Google (worldwide) generates more advertising revenue than the entire US print media combined, Oremus recalls the origins of the newspapers’ “partnership” with Google:

The newspaper industry was willing to play along, if only for lack of a better idea. Gary Pruitt, then the CEO of McClatchy Newspapers and now CEO of the Associated Press, said, “We take comfort from Charles Darwin’s observation that it’s not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change. We just need to be adaptable.”

Flash forward half a decade, and it turns out that newspapers weren’t the strongest, the most intelligent, or the most adaptable. They’ve continued to churn out the same content while watching their advertisers steadily flee for sites like Craigslist, Yahoo, the Huffington Post/AOL, Facebook, and yes, Google.

Continue reading: Google eats the newspaper industry and five other must-reads

NewsNow: ‘End These Indiscriminate Attacks’

news-nowNewsNow is something of a British success story. Launched in 1998, during that first phase of internet entrepreneurship, it is the country’s leading news aggregator and the UK’s answer to Google News.

It currently accounts for 20 per cent of the market

Set up by two technology journalists, Nick Gilbert and Struan Bartlett (declaration of interest: both former colleagues), it is proof that not all of us watch from the sidelines. Some get stuck in.

But now the NewsNow business model is under fire. The company has been threatened with legal action if it does not change the way it does business or cease from linking altogether.

In an open letter to national and regional newspapers – a number of whom have NewsNow in their sights – Bartlett called on them to end these “indiscriminate attacks”. 

In the letter, widely circulated on Twitter yesterday, he wrote:

We don’t redistribute your web pages to anyone. We operate within the law, and we don’t do you any harm.

Far from it. We deliver you traffic and drive you revenues you otherwise wouldn’t have received. The idea that we are undermining your businesses is incorrect. It is fanciful to imagine that, if it weren’t for link aggregators, you would have more traffic or revenues. We provide a service that you do not: a means for readers to find your content more readily, via continuously updating links to a diversity of websites.

The truth is, if anything, it is the growth of the Internet itself — not link aggregation — that has undermined your businesses by destroying the virtual monopoly that you once held over the mass distribution of written news.

Which seems about the sum of it.

I’ve yet to hear a really effective case made against aggregators. From publishers, at least.

I can understand why those who make their money from syndication – step forward the Associated Press – are unhappy. Aggregation, formally through the likes of Google News and News Now or informally via social media, is the new syndication.

That’s why AP has led the fight.

But publishers? Their approach is, frankly, schizophrenic. Take News Corp. If it is not shouting “kleptomaniac“, it’s showing a bit of leg to Google while dabbling with aggregation models of its own.

Here’s what we know – aggregators drive traffic.

We can argue, as many publishers are doing, about the value of these passing eye-balls, but asking whether we need NewsNow and co. to deliver this transient traffic is not the same as declaring them harmful. And it is a very long way from proving that without these apparent parasites, revenue would be up, up, up.

Good luck, NewsNow.

Top 10 News Aggregators In The UK
What Would Google Do? Fail Quietly.

Cervical Cancer Vaccine Scaremongering Pits Google Against The Blogosphere

vaccineFellow blogger Malcolm Coles is conducting a medical experiment, but you’re more likely to see the results in New Media Age than The Lancet.

Following death this week of a teenage girl moments after she had been immunized against cervical cancer, Coles  noted how many of the papers had failed to offer a balanced account of events, implying that the vaccination and the death were linked when at best there was no proof.

As we now know, the tragic death was later attributed to an unrelated tumour. Too late for the papers – and too late for the aggregator of the newspapers, Google.

Of course Google didn’t author any of these stories but it does disseminate –  and Coles wants those stories off the top of search and Google News results pages.

The solution?

He wants as many bloggers as possible to post about the jab, and rather than link to some scurrilous story, they should instead link to this NHS cervical cancer vaccine page.

The more inbound links, the higher the page rank, the more likely that particular NHS page is to appear on page one of Google.

The net result (no pun intended) is that concerned parents scouring the internet for information will more likely see the informed advice.

As I blog, the NHS cervical cancer vaccine page (oops, I’ve linked to it again), has yet to make Google page one but an NHS Q&A has. And someone – the Department of Health presumably – has bought a sponsored ad.

But none of this should stop the experiment. Go link…

Google Fast Flip Verdict – Good News For Users, Bad News For Newspapers
Google Ads. FAIL
BBC Goes Crowdsourcing To Save The NHS

Google Fast Flip Verdict – Good News For Users, Bad News For Newspapers

google-fast-flipSo long Google News and thanks for all the traffic.

Google Fast Flip may still be in the labs but the search giant’s latest efforts should give some in the newspaper industry nightmares.

First things first, it is a pretty nice concept (if far from new) and it offers a decent user experience. Search a news event – Kim Clijsters US Open win for example – and Google Fast Flip will return results in all their visual glory by rendering the look and feel of the host website.

You can browse from one page to the next by clicking backwards and forwards on the blue arrows. And if you want to visit the site in question simply click on the image.

Google is in no doubt why you’ll want to use it:

In short, you get fast browsing, natural magazine-style navigation, recommendations from friends and other members of the community and a selection of content that is serendipitous and personalized.

There’s also a promise of a revenue share for publishers who sign up but here’s where it starts to unravel for a news industry increasingly fretful about generating revenue online.

Paul Bradshaw, writing on the Online Journalism Blog, is in no doubt that this is a bad move for publishers and the only motivation to sign up is “blind panic”. He notes:

Of course, by hosting screenshots Google are eating into one of the key metrics that publishers use to sell advertising: the time a user spends on your site. And given that many readers don’t read beyond the first few pars, there’s a good chance it will eat into the numbers clicking through to the actual page at all.

The Telegraph’s Shane Richmond nicely satirises the move in his Fake Eric Schmidt blog this morning. Adopting the potty-mouth of Google’s (fake) CEO, he writes:

And here’s the part you ——— will love: we’ll share the revenue with you. Of course the ads will be ours, not yours. Oh, and Fast Flip shows enough of the article that readers will decide not to click through and read your pages at all. But you’ll thank us for it because we’ve saved your business model. Happy now bitches?

Top 10 News Aggregators In The UK
What Would Google Do? Fail Quietly.
‘I Consider Google News A Gift, Newspapers Consider It Theft.’

10 Google News Optimisation Tips From Google

Google_News_Spencer_E_HoltawayAs someone once said, “I consider Google News a gift, but newspapers consider it theft.”

There’s a time and place for a debate about the effect – insidious or otherwise – of the web’s leading news aggregator. And this isn’t it.

Except to say that search engines and aggregators continue to be kingmakers for news websites. Something that news publishers know only too well.

So when Google speaks – or, in this case, videos itself speaking – publishers listen. The 15 minute presentation from Google’s Maile Ohye offers some advice that you’re probably familiar with – and much you’re not.

10 Google News Optimisation Tips From Google

1. Don’t break up article body
Sequential paragraphs work best, so don’t be tempted to pepper the copy with users comments or links to related posts – leave that to the end. And don’t post your news article across multiple pages.

2. Spend time on the article title. Both of them.
Make your title “extremely indicative of the article in hand,” says Ohye. And we’re not just talking about the headline here. Make the html title (ie) the one that appears in the web address, a good one too. Indeed (and this is not Google’s advice, you understand), if it’s editable you can make it longer and more keyword-heavy than the headline. Just don’t game the system with irrelevant link-bait.

3. Submit a News sitemap
The News sitemap gives greater control to which of your articles appear on Google News, and helps supply relevant meta information such as publication date and keywords – all of which aids classification. Click here for more on News sitemaps.

4. Use Jpegs
If you want your images to appear on Google News results pages, don’t use Gifs of PNG files. Use .jpg.

5. Get a citation
If your news organisation has broken a story or developed new lines on an existing one, make sure others cite you as the source. And that they link back to your original story. Google looks for citations when ranking articles within a list.

6. Don’t worry about your PageRank
While Google PageRank matters a great deal for your placing within Google’s conventional search, it matters far less for news aggregation. Why? Because the linking structure of a brand new article isn’t going to be the same as one published months or years ago. Google News is far more interested in timeliness, local relevancy etc.

7.  Use large images
If you want an image to appear on Google News (and images get clicked a lot) make sure it’s large, with a good aspect ratio. Also, inline images are preferable to those that are a click away.

8. Keep your opinions to yourself
Google says only news articles appear on Google News – that means no satire, press releases or op-ed will be considered.

9. Put dates between article and body text
This helps Google’s date extractor do its work and more accurately classify your work.

10. Don’t worry about the content
Only kidding. Every search engine optimisation session ends with the obligatory “create unique and original content” and this one is no different. I guess it makes these traders in the dark arts of SEO feel slightly less dirty.

Top 10 News Aggregators In The UK
What Would Google Do? Fail Quietly.
The Express Fiddles While The Mail Earns

[Picture credit: Spencer E Holtaway]

Top 10 News Aggregators In The UK

Another interesting piece of number crunching from the people at Hitwise.

Robin Goad began the week looking at the Ashes effect on the UK internet landscape (mixing business and pleasure, I suspect).  He ends it by looking at the relative power of aggregators in disseminating the stuff of news producers.

The peg? The entrance of a relative newcomer in the shape of Bing News Search. And Bing is straight in at, er, number nine:

Top 10 News Aggregators in the UK

  1. Google News UK (36% of visits)
  2. NewsNow (20%)
  3. Digg (12%)
  4. Stumble Upon (9%)
  5. Ezine Articles (7%)
  6. Google News (6%)
  7. Google Reader (4%)
  8. Reddit (2%)
  9. Bing News Search (2%)
  10. NetVibes (1%)

(source: Hitwise, w/e 22 August 2009)

Goad notes:

Last week just over three quarters of Bing News Search’s traffic came from other Microsoft properties, particularly MSN UK and the main Bing search page.

So where are these aggregators sending people? Google News is largely sending people where you would expect. The news sites with the largest reach (BBC, Telegraph and Mail Online among them) are receiving most referrals.

Bing is different. BBC remains number one but is followed by Fox News while Times of India features at number four.

What Would Google Do? Fail Quietly.
‘I Consider Google News A Gift, Newspapers Consider It Theft.’

What Would Google Do? Fail Quietly.

You may have missed the news, the Google News. A near two year experiment to feature comments from those in the news, has been dropped.

In fact it was dropped back in May.

And if you did miss it, you’re forgiven. After all, it only gets nine mentions on the news aggregator of choice.

Quoted in the New York Times Media Decoder blog, the company said:

“Occasionally … we have to re-evaluate our efforts to be sure we focus on features that make the most sense for our users.”

To borrow someone’s book title, what would Google do? Fail quietly, as it turns out. Continue reading What Would Google Do? Fail Quietly.

‘I Consider Google News A Gift, Newspapers Consider It Theft.’

The folk at Random House assured me it would be with me yesterday. Yet the postman didn’t even ring once. So no copy of Chris Anderson’s latest, Free: The Future of a Radical Price.

So I’ll have to make do with a rather hostile review by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker and this group interview with the Guardian.

Anderson popped into ITN when promoting The Long Tail for a similar discussion. If memory serves it was under Chatham House rules, which subsequently strikes me as odd – and denies us any record of a fascinating, if sprawling, discussion.

Anyway, some interesting tidbits from the Guardian chat:

On publishing models
“More people write for attention than money.”

“Give away the head and charge for the tail.”

“The problem is that there aren’t many premium newspapers.”

On the role of Google News in aggregating traffic
“I consider that a gift, but newspapers consider it theft.”

The full report of the interview is here.

Taking The Micheal. (Did You Mean ‘Michael’?)

Loads of stats around on Michael Jackson’s death last week and the subsequent surge in web traffic.

For example, Twitter’s audience reached an all-time, high claiming 0.24% of all US internet visits on Friday (that’s one in every 417). Similar stellar stats in the UK (0.23% share).

The big website winners were Wikipedia, Google News and the site that broke the original story, a Hollywood-focused celebrity site that picked up 1 in every 1,100 UK Internet visits last Thursday.

But my favourite stat from Hitwise is this: the third most searched Jackson-related phrase was ‘Micheal Jackson’.

Basic spelling, it seems, is no barrier to online greef (spl?).

Related: Guido, Jacko And Miliband’s Phantom Tweet

How Twitter Left Google News Trailing Over Iran

So this is what we think we know – after the Sichuan earthquake and the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, the aftermath of the Iranian elections marks the latest coming of age for Twitter.

As a vechicle breaking news and real-time updates the microblogging site has once again shown it can leave the 24-hour news networks in its wake. 

Sure the rolling news channels (notably the late-to-the-story CNN) and the papers do an invaluable job curating and repackaging much of it but the raw material and the original narrative belongs to Twitter.

But what’s really interesting is not the battle between Twitter and the established media but between Twitter and its online rivals. 

Some fascinating number-crunching by Heather Dougherty of Hitwise reveals that one in four people searching for “Iran election” headed to the microblogging service.

The figures are for the week ending 20 June and the data is US-only but the results are significant: this is the first time I can recall Twitter beating Google News in a straight race.


Continue reading How Twitter Left Google News Trailing Over Iran