We all know the internet is killing newspapers. Don’t we?
Interesting then, to read over this slideshow from Google, as the search giant throws its weight behind trying to ‘save’ the news industry.
Why? In the simplest terms, Google’s search results would be a lot less relevant to a huge chunk of the globe if all that was on offer was the unreliable huff, guff and puff which roams outside the circled wagons of the professional media.
This slideshow – by Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist – should be pored over by every journalist in the UK with an interest in prolonging the production of quality news.
There’s a lot more meat on the bones in this artcle in Atlantic magazine, by James Fallows. Not least the hearteningly uncomplicated belief by Google’s finest minds that people quite simply will pay for news – it’s just a matter of finding the right model.
In short, there isn’t one right or wrong way to monetise news. It isn’t a simple ‘either or’ debate between Murdoch’s Times and Sunday Times paywall or the Guardian and the Scott Trust which props up its commitment to free access.
Here are some of the points I found most interesting in the Google slideshow:
*People take time to read news at length during their leisure time – and only ‘snack’ during work hours.
* Debate has raged on whether the iPad and other tablet computers will affect news consumption and ultimately news revenues. Google believes they will.
* Newspaper ad revenue was dying long before the emergence of the internet.
* Online erosionof ad revenues are a relatively new problem when compared with long-term nosedive in circulation.
No surprise the issues remains troublingly complex. The fundamental problem is that ‘narrowly defined’ news (ie, happening events of relevance to the population at large which are, er, the new in news) is never going to be easy to monetise.
The nagging suspicion among journalists has long been that ‘management’ frittered away a lucrative dominance of the advertising market – basically by failing to spot the shifts wreaked by the web and to serve the right ads, to the right people at the right time.
Google seems to validate that belief, by suggesting here that improved contextual advertising will be a key in the evolution (and presumably the survival) of news. It also points out that its cable and subscription TV has benefitted far more than the internet by hoovering up ad revenue lost to newspapers.
So, in short, the future of the news industry isto provide hyperlocal and/or incredibly specialised niche content, served up on a leisure time consumption device, with ads perfectly tailored to the interests or needs of the individual reader?
Funny that, because that soundsto me exactly like … Google.