How Google warps the News International agenda

Google’s agreement to limit views of News International pages is no skin off the nose of the search engine’s plans at all – but there are other things to consider rather than Rupert Murdoch’s plans to charge for people to see the pages of the Sun or The Times of London.

Google has commoditized news. When Alf from the Xanadu Observer writes about climate change and bungs a picture in his story, there’s a fair chance that it could topple the Times of London’s version from top spot on Google News. As editor-in-chief Alf only has a team of three and operates from his bedroom in the suburbs of Poughkeepsie, it’s no wonder that Rupert Murdoch of News International thinks Google is doing his business to death.

And then there’s the Google News algorithm. At the bottom of the page it says that the results on the page are computer generated.  What happens is that if you write your story last, not first, you can hit the top spots on the Google News page. That’s what a lot of people are doing these days – they’re writing old news.

You don’t need journalists to break stories on the internet these days – the pure play online sites need pageviews, pageviews and more pageviews to pay the wages.

Bit trickier for Rupert Murdoch of News International. That produces newspapers – tangible non-pixellated things that need paper, ink, distributors with trucks and places to sell them.

I think it was someone at Tech Crunch who suggested that if the top journalists in the USA got together – say about a dozen of them – they could produce an online competitor to the New York Times or any other newspaper and clean up.

While printed matter is unlikely to ever disappear, fewer and fewer folk are buying newspapers and more and more will read their news online. It’s the end of the lucrative newspaper business as we knew it – the overheads of a print magazine or daily rag are just too great and online news is just not going to go away.

If and when News International does start to charge for its online offerings, there are going to be plenty of people – the majority – who just won’t bite.  You pay for content if it’s exceptionally good. That’s why the Wall Street Journal was – and to me still is – worth paying for.

News International is making a big mistake. And Google News is making another big mistake. If Google News is generated by an algorithm, it’s not a highly intelligent one – but people will continue to read what it aggregates. Whether it’s by Alf from the Xanadu Observer or otherwise.