Monday, April 09, 2007

Google tries to turn a page

Before Google ran into trouble with TV companies over YouTube and with authors and publishers over Google Print, there was Google News.

Its aggregation of links to newspaper content and wire agency copy is now five years old, but two years ago the Agence France-Presse news agency sought damages of $17.5m from Google in a breach of copyright lawsuit.

AFP held a minority view among Google’s 4,500 news sources that the thumbnail photos and paragraph excerpts that linked to its content on the web were bad for business.

Nearly everyone else appeared to see a benefit to the biggest site on the internet linking to their content, driving traffic to their sites and earning them money from the ads they were able to display alongside their stories.

Google itself has yet to directly profit from the service – there are still no ads on the Google News pages.

AFP announced today it had settled with Google and would allow its content to be used, but the news came only hours after a new challenge emerged.

Speaking at Stanford University on Thursday night, Sam Zell, the new owner of the Tribune media conglomerate, said:

"If all the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content for nothing, what would Google do? We have a situation today where effectively the content is being paid for by the newspapers and stolen by Google, etcetera. That can last for a short time, but it can’t last forever. I think Google and the boys understand that. We’re going to see new deals and new formulas in the media space that reflect the reality of cost benefit.”

Mr Zell is a billionaire from real estate who has been in newspapers for less than a week. His comments may seem naïve but they may also hint at radical moves to come.

Already fighting on two media fronts, Google could face a third being opened anew.

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