Hold On: Are More Papers Really Joining Murdoch’s Google Block Party?
Bloomberg has a story out suggesting that the publishers of the Denver Post and the Dallas Morning News may be joining Rupert Murdoch’s coalition of the willing to block Google. But I don’t think that’s what going on at all, and I’m trying to clarify things.
Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group, which publishes the Denver Post and many other newspapers, is quoted saying:
The things that go behind pay walls, we will not let Google search to, but the things that are outside the pay wall we probably will, because we want the traffic.
OK, I’m fairly sure that Singleton is simply unaware that he can have his paywall and also still be in Google. Both recent articles from me below explain this in more details:
- Would Someone Please Explain To News Corp How Google Works?
- Josh Cohen Of Google News On Paywalls, Partnerships & Working With Publishers
The first illustrates how Newsday is in Google complete with a paywall that doesn’t even allow Google visitors to read for free.
The second looks at the various ways Google interacts with paywalls and content registration. That article also has Google News business product manager Josh Cohen explaining that many publishers aren’t aware of the several options they have.
Since Singleton has no problem getting traffic via his free content from Google, I find it mind boggling that he’d turn down more traffic that his paywall content could generate. Content behind a paywall, as Newsday demonstrates, can also send free traffic but without harming revenue.
Keep in mind that Murdoch is also talking about completely pulling out of Google, free and all, unless he gets some type of payment for merely linking to his content. Singleton doesn’t seem to be suggesting the same.
Then again, Singleton is also chairman of the Associated Press — which does indeed seem to believe even mere links would require fees. And he’s raised concerns about blogger links, so it’s hard to say.
Meanwhile, James Moroney, executive vice president of AH Belo — which publishes the Dallas Morning News among other papers — is also cited in the same article on blocking Google (it’s unclear from the story, but you get the impression both publishing executives were on some panel where they were asked about this).
Moroney said there are no “imminent” plans to block Google and that any would be part of a bigger strategy which seems to involve putting up paywalls generally.
Bloomberg then summarizes that the plan would require readers to go directly to the newspaper web sites. Moroney is quoted again:
“This is traffic that’s not being monetized to any great degree,” Moroney said. “It’s akin to a person who drops into town, buys one copy of your newspaper and leaves town again and yet you spend a whole bunch of time building your business around that type of customer.”
To clarify, you can’t read stories from newspapers on Google News except in cases where there are explicit licensing agreements with publishers like the Associated Press (see my How Search Engines, Aggregators & Blogs Use News Content post for more). So putting up a paywall isn’t something you have to do to prevent people from “reading” your story on Google News. They can’t read it there anyway.
Instead, putting up a paywall is commonly misunderstood as meaning you can’t be found in Google News at all. As I’ve explained, that’s not the case — but publishers may not realize this.
Keep in mind that while both executives speak about Google, that’s probably because they were asked specifically about Google, not search engines in general. I don’t think Bing has any paywall support at all; I’m unclear of the situation with Yahoo. But putting up a paywall potentially means blocking more than Google.
Also be aware that to totally be out of Google, putting up a paywall won’t do this. Google (and other search engines) will still see a link to articles out there from the mining they do across the entire web. To fully be dropped, the publishers would have to request that all links be removed — and neither sounds like they’re talking about things to this extent.
I put in press requests to both publishers two hours ago. I still haven’t heard back. If any readers have contacts to nudge them along, please do so. I held off writing this up for so long because I thought it would be useful to get more information directly from them.
For related discussion, see Techmeme.
Postscript (2:45pm Pacific): I received a statement back from AH Belo:
At this time, A. H. Belo, like many news and information companies, is considering a wide range of monetization models. No decision regarding Google News has been made.