Google’s Eric Schmidt Chronicles Newspapers’ Decline As He Offers To Help

Newspaper reader Eric Schmidt, who happens to be Google’s CEO, has spoken frequently about his reverence for news journalism and the important role it plays in society. He and his organization have worked with and reached out to publishers to find ways to promote and expose their content online. Yet despite these overtures many newspaper publishers, most notably the good folks in the C-suite at the Wall Street Journal, have called Google a “thief,” “parasite” (and worse), blaming Google for practically all the evils in the world save global warming.

Today, Schmidt writes an editorial that appears in that very same Wall Street Journal, which seeks to provide more historical context for the current predicament of newspapers. You can see his remarks as self serving but I think they’re accurate:

It was the arrival of radio and television that started the decline of newspaper circulation. Afternoon newspapers were the first casualties. Then the advent of 24-hour news transformed what was in the morning papers literally into old news.

Now the Internet has broken down the entire news package with articles read individually, reached from a blog or search engine, and abandoned if there is no good reason to hang around once the story is finished. It’s what we have come to call internally the atomic unit of consumption.

He also points about the ways in which Google can and wants to help:

Meeting that challenge will mean using technology to develop new ways to reach readers and keep them engaged for longer, as well as new ways to raise revenue combining free and paid access. I believe it also requires a change of tone in the debate, a recognition that we all have to work together to fulfill the promise of journalism in the digital age.

Google is serious about playing its part. We are already testing, with more than three dozen major partners from the news industry, a service called Google Fast Flip. The theory—which seems to work in practice—is that if we make it easier to read articles, people will read more of them. Our news partners will receive the majority of the revenue generated by the display ads shown beside stories.

Nor is there a choice, as some newspapers seem to think, between charging for access to their online content or keeping links to their articles in Google News and Google Search. They can do both.

He appeals to the industry to set a different “tone in the debate.” Cutting to the chase, I would agree that newspaper publishers are better off working with Google (and other search engines) than shunning them. Danny wrote previously about the pitfalls of withdrawing content and/or forming an “OPEC” of publishers.

The Internet, as Schmidt contends, as well as third party content aggregation have been disruptive for newspapers. Traditional media companies no longer control distribution as they once exclusively did. And Google is for most newspapers the most visible stand-in for the Internet and these developments as a whole.

Google is a self-interested company with its own agenda — to be sure — but, on balance, it’s better to find ways to work with Google or take advantage of Google technology than it is to completely stonewall and shun the company. News and traditional content publishers must work with search engines as well as find alternative distribution channels and platforms (e.g., mobile) for their publications.

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Related Topics: Channel: Content | Google: Critics | Google: News | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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