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Is Google News Archive Search really the latest Google information revolution?

Google's latest incremental service enhancement to its News search is touted as but another of Google's information revolutions, but what does it really mean for the rights of content owners?
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor

Google's expansion of its news search index to include "old" news stories is being announced by Google with its usual bluster claiming benevolent knowledge creation and access for users and no-fee customer generation for content owners.

Google puts forth any incremental product or service enhancement as just one more step in its relentless generous drive to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" (see Google targeting all the world's content and all your information )

Google's description of its new Google News Archive Search feature:

News archive search provides an easy way to search and explore historical archives. Users can search for events, people, ideas and see how they have been described over time. In addition to searching for the most relevant articles for their query, users can get an historical overview of the results by browsing an automatically created timeline. Search results include both content that is accessible to all users and content that requires a fee. Articles related to a single story within a given time period are grouped together to allow users to see a broad perspective on the events.

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Associated Press reports reflect Google's PR spin:

Google Inc. is expanding its online news index to include stories published years ago, continuing the Internet search leader's recent efforts to create new sales channels for long-established media while it strives to make its own Web site even more useful.

But how useful is the new service? Google claims the expansion of its news search index reflects 200 years of history. A Google News Archive Search on "Internet," however, yields an historical headlines "timeline" which can hardly be considered to provide users access to a useful history of the Internet:

1) 1995-1997: Microsoft Unveils Aggressive Strategy for Internet; December 8, 1995, for $2.95 NewsBank

2) 1995-1997: Microsoft releases Internet Explorer fix; March 5, 1997, CNN

3) 1998: MCI Agrees to Sell Interent Assests; May 28, 1998, by subscription, WSJ online
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And how generous is Google being to content owners? Google's deft pre-release of "breaking news" once again has yielded the company an avalanche of gushing media coverage. Business Week's "News Analysis" reads as a manifesto in support of Google's seemingly "public service" mission:

One of the prevailing beliefs about Google is that its search engine inevitably devalues Internet content. Why pay $2.50 for, say, an archived magazine article when you can use Google to find a free (and possibly illegal) copy of it on the Internet? Taking that reasoning to its logical conclusion, online publishers of paid content are destined for extinction.

Business Week's assertion that fee-based archived content can be readily obtained for free in Google SERPs via a standard Google search would undoubtedly not stand up to a rigourous testing.

Nevertheless, BusinessWeek's literal Google "love" fest continues:

A new product being released by Google on Sept. 6 undermines such notions. Google News Archive Search will make more than 200 years of news content searchable to all users, the company says. The content will come from publishers and aggregators such as The New York Times, Time magazine, The Guardian, LexisNexis, and Factiva, many of which charge fees for archived content.

Clicking on a search result will yield a summary and—here's the part online publishers are sure to love—give users the option to buy the full article...Contrary to the idea that Google devalues paid content, the search engine could increase the value of content and subscription services that users previously didn't know existed.

BusinessWeek neglects to point out, however, that Google's new specialized news service does not necessarily improve content owners' protections in the Google standard SERPs, about which BusinessWeek itself says: "Why pay $2.50 for, say, an archived magazine article when you can use Google to find a free (and possibly illegal) copy of it on the Internet?"

From a content ownership perspective, in fact, Google's latest "information revolution" is not a slam-dunk win-win. Publishers may lose long-term on three fronts:

1) no revenue share from Google for advertising revenues generated via ads placed against publishers' content;

2) Google's retention of full-text copies of publishers' content;

3) dilution of brand equity and reduced direct visitor navigation.

Patrick Spain, chief executive of HighBeam Research Inc., is cited on his relinqusihing of control to Google: "We would love to have people just come to HighBeam to do all their searches in the first place, but we are not naive enough to believe that is going to happen."
ALSO SEE: "Google royalty-free content acqusition: fair use, or foul play?"
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