Forbes’ Paul Maidment bashes the newspaper industry (uh-oh, more competition) following another moribund conference. But he gets it backwards.

If there was a change in print executives’ moods at the conference in Las Vegas, it was that a decade of consolidation and cost cutting to maintain what have been fat industry profit margins are giving way to talk of Internet publishing opportunities. Sigh. Earth to newspaper executives: Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft have, in the meantime, made themselves into media companies that are bigger than any newspaper.

Even the mighty minds behind Google took several years to realize that they were a media company, not a tech company. But they and their fellow West Coasters have invented a new way of presenting journalism, through aggregation rather than creation. They have also invented a new way of consuming it, through search, and have found new expression to an age-old publishing truth–that if you can gather an audience, you can make money. In doing so, they have been ripping out the commercial heart of the newspaper industry, its classified ads business.

No, I say that’s mixed up. Search — namely, Google — and links — namely, blogs — send huge traffic to news sites. Without that audience and attention and branding, the old news sites’ online efforts would founder, taking the mother ships down with them.

In a distributed world, you want to be aggregated. If you’re not aggregated, you’re nowhere. (Not-quite-full disclosure: The news startup I’ve been working on promises to organize the world’s news.)

And Google did not kill the classifieds business. Neither did Craig. The advent of a new, distributed, edge-controlled medium that can put buyer and seller together directly, without the need for a centralized marketplace, is what did in classifieds.

Beware the French strategy of trying to avoid Google. That is like avoiding the newsstand.