Susan Crawford, bearer of one of the most dazzling brains online, has perfect advice for the old-media people who think search is an enemy. European publishers complained about Google making money off “their content” when the truth is that Google is sending prospective members to “their” communities if only they were ready to welcome them. Susan says:
What Google does is respond to search queries by providing snippets — thumbnail pictures and a line of text here, a line from a page there, a headline — and helping people get to where those things were posted. That’s pointing, not copying, and it’s a key element of Web 2.0.
The publishers, and the news agencies, are having trouble with this evolution — heck, they had enough trouble with Web 1.0, much less the groupness we’re seeing now– and are relying on incumbent laws (like copyright law) to protect their ability to charge for content.
But there’s a great opportunity here that shouldn’t be missed: news companies can become not only providers of great stories (well-researched, well-written, unlike blog posts) but also sources of order. There is so much information now — we need help! We need priority, and sense of impact, and sense of global connections. We need visualizations, and links, and commentary. All of these things are valuable. We’ll pay — with our attention, our loyalty to the brand, and maybe even with money if the reporters’ own personalities are allowed out to play.
A search engine, alone, can’t provide this kind of judgment. Not even Google can say which story is likely to have an important impact on our collective future. There is a Web 2.0 model for publishers, and they can only get there by letting go.
I think it’s about order and also about relationships, about connecting people to information and each other.