I don’t care what you say, just spell the URL right

I don’t care what you say, just spell the URL right

: Wired.com columnist and NYU j-prof Adam Pennenberg makes what I think is a spurious prediction regarding GoogleNews and online news publishers:

As it turns out, however, Google has a problem that is nearly as complex as its algorithms. It can’t make money from Google News.

So while other online publishers like Yahoo News and MSNBC earn tens of millions of dollars in revenue each year and continue to grow, Google News remains in beta mode — three years after it launched — long after most of the bugs have been excised.

The reason: The minute Google News runs paid advertising of any sort it could face a torrent of cease-and-desist letters from the legal departments of newspapers, which would argue that “fair use” doesn’t cover lifting headlines and lead paragraphs verbatim from their articles. Other publishers might simply block users originating from Google News, effectively snuffing it out.

Who says so? From the way that’s written, this doesn’t appear to be reported, for there is no one quoted, not even an unnamed source. This seems to be just his speculation — and if so, he should say so.

Now I don’t pretend to speak for the industry or even, in this case, my employer and I’m not a copyright laywer and don’t play one on TV. But…

Every online news publisher I know is eager to get links from GoogleNews, just as they’re happy to get links from Drudge (which is the No. 1 referrer of traffic to both the New York Times and the Washington Post, last I knew). It’s free traffic, free marketing, new audience. Many news sites that require registration even implemented what we call the Drudge exception, allowing readers who come from Drudge or who come directly to a story from a link to see that story without having to register. The only problem with this for some publishers is that it’s not necessarily sellable traffic; it may be out-of-market traffic coming to a local site with local advertising. So there’s a small cost of that bandwidth. But for most every publisher out there, traffic is good. Period.

GoogleNews merely takes a headline and a snippet and then links to the original source. That is a service to the source and to the reader.

That’s not to say I don’t have problems with GoogleNews and its questionable choice of some “news” sources and questionable exclusion of others.

And that’s not to say that publishers don’t have another, bigger, and ultimately unsolvable problem with Google itself:

Google is as brand-killer. Time and again, I’ve seen that consumers find the information they want via Google without being very aware of who ended up providing that information: They ask a question; Google takes them to the answer; they leave, satisifed; they don’t pay attention to where they were. This can harm brands that get advertising based on syndicated research that asks consumers how often they visit or how aware they are of a brand; they may well visit a brand’s site but if they don’t pay attention then the brand doesn’t get credit in the survey and looks smaller than it is. In spite of that, I can’t imagine a publisher who wouldn’t want to come up in Google searches; hell, they all pay companies in the new industry of search-engine optimization to make sure they come up higher and higher in those searches.

Publishers will have other problems with Google as it enters their spaces. Google is entering local. It will enter directory advertising. It has entered shopping. I wouldn’t be surprised if it enters classified.

But GoogleNews merely sends links to news sources, who can then profit from that traffic with advertising.

It’s important to challenge Penenberg’s assertion — and ask what his source is — because what he says has an even greater impact on bloggers, who quote original sources at greater length than GoogleNews (and often critically). Most bloggers don’t profit from that; but they will. And it’s important to note that bloggers are performing an important function of fact-checking, pushing, and goading news media and we need to protect that.

: See also Rex Hammock and /.