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Google to Congress: We can help news publishers - if they embrace opportunities

When did the news industry become like the music industry - a group of finger-pointing businesses trying to find someone else to blame for their woes?In both the music and news industries, the adoption of new technology completely disrupted a long-standing business model.
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Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive on

When did the news industry become like the music industry - a group of finger-pointing businesses trying to find someone else to blame for their woes?

In both the music and news industries, the adoption of new technology completely disrupted a long-standing business model. But whose fault is it that those traditional businesses fought long and hard to hang on to a model that clearly was being pushed out by new technologies. Whose fault is it that they were slow to embrace the opportunities that resulted from the new technology?

Today, the news industry is trying to make Google the scapegoat. But that's hardly fair - and actually pretty hypocritical, if you ask me. I remember being in newspaper newsrooms where reporters, editors and executives talked about things like changing headlines for an online version of the story so that Google would index it and hopefully put it in front of new readers.

Is that suddenly a bad thing? Do the online editors of mainstream newsrooms no longer think that way?

Last month, the Associated Press threatened legal action against online news aggregators and Wall Street Journal editor Robert Thomson said aggregators like Google have profited from the misconception that news stories should be free on the Internet. Now, Forbes.com CEO and president Jim Spanfeller writes about the "parasitical nature" of Google's business model

Good for Google executive Marissa Mayer, who addressed a U.S. Senate subcommittee today to defend her company's practices and inform lawmakers that, in fact, Google can be good for journalism. CNET's Stephen Shankland reports on Mayer's testimony on Capital Hill, including the full text of her testimony.

I think she makes some valid arguments. Here are a couple of excerpts that had me nodding in agreement:

When producing an article for online news, the publisher must assume that a reader may be viewing this article on its own, independent of the rest of the publication. To make an article effective in a standalone setting requires providing sufficient context for first-time readers, while clearly calling out the latest information for those following a story over time. It also requires a different approach to monetization: each individual article should be self-sustaining. These types of changes will require innovation and experimentation in how news is delivered online, and how advertising can support it.

And...

A much smaller but important factor for online newspapers to consider in today's digital age is the fundamental design and presentation of their content. Publishers should not discount the simple and effective navigational elements the Web can offer. When a reader finishes an article online, it is the publication's responsibility to answer the reader who asks, "What should I do next?" Click on a related article or advertisement? Post a comment? Read earlier stories on the topic? Much like Amazon.com suggests related products and YouTube makes it easy to play another video, publications should provide obvious and engaging next steps for users. Today, there are still many publications that don't fully take advantage of the numerous tools that keep their readers engaged and on their site.

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