Google 'unfairly scapegoated'

2009-12-04 11:52

Washington - Google is being unfairly scapegoated by newspaper publishers, and wants to help the troubled industry build online revenue, the chief executive of the internet giant said.

"With dwindling revenue and diminished resources, frustrated newspaper executives are looking for someone to blame," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in an opinion column published on Thursday in The Wall Street Journal.

"Much of their anger is currently directed at Google, whom many executives view as getting all the benefit from the business relationship without giving much in return," Schmidt said. "The facts, I believe, suggest otherwise."

Among those who have criticized Google is the owner of The Wall Street Journal, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who has accused it of "stealing" stories without sharing advertising revenue.

Murdoch has threatened to block Google from indexing his newspapers and has reportedly been holding talks with Microsoft about making News Corp's content accessible exclusively through the software giant's new search engine, Bing.

'Great source of promotion'

Murdoch also has announced plans to begin charging readers of his newspapers on the web. The Journal currently is the only title in the News Corp stable to require a subscription fee.

Schmidt said Google is a "great source of promotion" for newspapers through its aggregator website Google News and other services.

"We send online news publishers a billion clicks a month from Google News and more than three billion extra visits from our other services, such as Web Search and iGoogle," he said. "That is 100 000 opportunities a minute to win loyal readers and generate revenue - for free."

Schmidt rejected charges Google was violating copyright law by linking to stories on newspaper websites.

"In terms of copyright, another bone of contention, we only show a headline and a couple of lines from each story," he said. "If readers want to read on they have to click through to the newspaper's website."

Schmidt noted that publishers were free to remove their content from Google search or Google News at any time and denied assertions by some publishers that Google was "making big profits on the back of newspapers".

"The revenue generated from the ads shown alongside news search queries is a tiny fraction of our search revenue," he said.

'Critical for a functioning democracy'

Schmidt said accurate information and analysis is "critical for a functioning democracy" and Google wants to "work with publishers to help them build bigger audiences, better engage readers, and make more money.

"It's understandable to look to find someone else to blame," he said. "But as Rupert Murdoch has said, it is complacency caused by past monopolies, not technology, that has been the real threat to the news industry."

Schmidt acknowledged it has been difficult for newspapers to make money online but said there was no single cause or single solution.

"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," he said.

"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."

"I certainly don't believe that the Internet will mean the death of news," he added. "Through innovation and technology, it can endure with newfound profitability and vitality."

Schmidt's column appeared as Google came under fierce assault by publishers at the World Newspaper Congress in India and at the close of a two-day meeting here hosted by the US Federal Trade Commission on the future of journalism.

Earlier this week, Google made it possible for newspapers to set a limit on the number of articles people can read for free through its search engine and made it easier for them to remove their content from Google News.