How Valuable is Search to Newspapers? to Sites?

The big news today is Rupert Murdoch’s claim that as soon as his papers go paid he will start blocking Google from indexing them. Google on its end has said it’s ok with leaving newspapers out of its index.

Mark Cuban has his take including his belief that Twitter is surpassing Google as a destination for finding breaking news.

The common consensus seems to be that it would be suicidal for Mr. Murdoch to block Google from indexing his newspaper and lose all that search engine traffic.

Is that really the case?

What does a Search Engine do?

A Search Engine helps search the Internet for good information and good websites/services of interest to the user.

  1. Search started off as just a quick way to find good websites.
  2. Now, search is perceived more and more as the main value of the Internet.
  3. The content creators get marginalized because the search engine controls who to display and can thus exert more and more control over content sites.

Jakob Nielsen says that Search Engines leech the value from websites and he might be right.

Search Engines are displaying more and more of a website’s information -

  • Google is testing search preview. 
  • Bing has search snippets.  

Also, search engines are buying or gathering more and more of static information and redirecting users to their own websites -

  1. Lots of search queries go to the search engine’s news search.  
  2. Some search queries go to sites owned by the search engines (Live Spaces, etc. for Bing and YouTube etc. for Google).
  3. Other search queries have answers on the search results page itself.  

Search Engines are trying to replace the Internet.

Search Engines are not Newspapers’ best friends. They are a partner that may or may not be essential and, more importantly, a partner that intends to take over newspapers’ business.  

What can content sites and newspapers do?

At some point content sites have to realize -

  1. Perhaps Search is 10-30% of the value of the Internet. However, search engines cannot be given the whole Internet to control.
  2. By providing more and more of their pages and content for free to search engines they have helped search engines form their brand at the cost of newspapers.

Content Sites should fragment search i.e.

  • Instead of having Google control all of search.
  • Distribute it between Facebook, Twitter, and other sources.

If the top 1,000 newspapers left Google and provided their content to Facebook and Twitter -

  1. Google’s position would be weakened.
  2. Newspapers could get better terms from ALL search engines and sites.

Newspapers/Blogs are competing with Search Engines

This is the part no one wants to admit.

  1. A user searches for a product.
  2. A search engine sends the user to a site for a product.
  3. The site provides information.
  4. The site sends the user to another site to buy (if not already bought).

Each part of the stream is trying to capture as much of the user’s value as they can.

If there is some semblance of balance, the value gets shared. If one element gains control it captures most of the value.

  • The more a search engine can take control of the starting point the more they can marginalize content providers and stores and capture the lion’s share for themselves.
  • The more a content site can distribute traffic between various starting points, the less they have to give those sites.
  • The more users a retailer can get on their own channel or straight to their site, the less value they lose to search engines and content sites.

The British used Divide and Conquer to colonize most of the world and each of the players here is trying to do the same.

Content Providers and Search Engines are the sort of friends that are just waiting to bury a dagger in each other’s backs. 

People are missing the fact that Google is very dependent on content sites

The value perception has shifted so drastically that people are only asking what will happen to Mr. Murdoch’s sites.

What about Google?

These are the benefits to Google from content sites -

  1. Google can concentrate on the profitable search advertising aspects while content sites focus on the expensive, hard content creation.
  2. Google uses good content sites to provide the best search results.  
  3. Google uses good content sites as the centre-piece to display ads.  
  4. All the value of content sites – because people start with search – gets transferred to Google’s brand.

Search for Kindle and you get -

Amazon, Wikipedia, 4 news links, New Yorker, YouTube, YouTube, CrunchGear, XKCD, Engadget, Wired.

Take away the content sites and there are no more ‘good search results’.

Google can destroy a small site by ignoring it. However, they cannot destroy an established brand and if a consortium of established brands leaves Google, Google’s value to users would drop.

How valuable is search to newspapers?

 It’s very valuable – However, only if the search engine stops destroying the value perception of news.

Search has been doing this from the start. The brands that have risen are those of the news aggregators – Yahoo News, Google News, and so forth.

We are living in a world where there is a perception that News has no value.

How could newspapers suffer from leaving search when search has made their product worthless?

Even if it were true that newspapers cannot survive without search engines - it would only be a lesson to every other type of content creator to stay away from search engine dependence.

2 Responses

  1. Your example of searching for Kindle is a great example of how you are mixing the idea of content with everything published. Amazon want you to search for Kindle. One because you can find more about it from places you might trust. Two so you can find them to buy it. They are not content creators, they are a store. If you take out the news links you have the review sites and the stores. The point of the search is relevance, not particular content.

    Also, you have always been able to tell Google to ignore your content by inserting a simple command in your site. Murdock and others that it is a nefarious plots really don’t understand search.

    Think of it this way. If I want NYT take on a subject, then I go to the NYT. If I just want to see what happened with a particular news story, then I search for it and it really doesn’t matter much which news provider comes up. I look at a couple and my need is fullfilled.

    Murdock’s plan will only work for a few name brand papers. The rest do need search more than Google needs them.

  2. [...] Не только российские СМИ рискуют высказываться о Мердоке: KindleReview (Devil’s Advocate – Could some of Mr. Murdoch’s thinking be right?) и там же (How Valuable is Search to Newspapers? to Sites?) [...]

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