CNET reports on testimony provided by Google VP Marissa Mayer on the “Future of Journalism” during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Defending against claims that Google “parasitically” makes money off the backs of print newspaper content, Mayer said:
Google connects Internet users to journalists’ work while at the same time helping journalists generate income to support their work, and providing tools to make news more compelling to readers and viewers.
Most importantly from an economic perspective, once readers arrive at publication sites, our Google AdSense advertising platform helps publishers generate revenue from their content. By providing relevant ads and improving the connection between advertisers and our users, Google AdSense creates billions of dollars in annual revenue for publishers. In fact, in 2008, that figure exceeded $5 billion in revenue for AdSense publishers. Users get more useful ads, and these more relevant ads generate higher returns for advertisers and publishers. We recently launched interest-based advertising, which we believe will be particularly helpful to publishers as it takes into account each individual user’s interests in the hopes of making advertisements even more relevant.
In addition to providing revenue opportunities, Google also offers many tools for sharing information that are being used by newspapers. For example, the Los Angeles Times Website last year followed the path of Southern California wildfires using Google Maps at the site. Google Image Search brings the Life Magazine photo archive to light for a whole new generation of readers. National Geographic and The Holocaust Memorial Museum have created interactive educational content layers in Google Earth. And NASA has partnered with us to allow anyone to virtually travel the stars in Google Sky. Our Web technologies are powerful information tools, and we hope to continue to empower content creation through them.
The drumbeat of criticism against Google and its business model has grown louder recently with frustrated (even bitter) media executives essentially scapegoating the search engine for their revenue and readership problems. Google may be the most visible beneficiary of the internet’s impact on consumer behavior but it’s the internet itself that has contributed to the decline of traditional media audiences — not just Google.
I won’t dismiss all criticism of Google as sour grapes but by choosing to focus on and scapegoat Google these vocal media executives deny or seek to avoid responsibility for their own lack of vision or inability to effectively compete in the new marketplace.
Postscript: This video (scroll down) featuring Arianna Huffington testifying about the Huffington Post provides a sense of the nature of the discussion before the subcommittee today.