Link v. read

I understand why the Associated Press and three other wire services negotiated to get money out of Google — money’s money and the wire-service model is challenging when links supersede syndication.

But I wonder whether this could backfire on the newspaper industry. Now — by forcing full wire-service stories to be on display at GoogleNews and with the addition of comments as content there — it’s likely that people will stay longer at Google and link less to news sites. This includes the wire services’ own clients, where readers used to have to go from GoogleNews to read wire stories. So even though it could sound like good news that Google is paying for content, this could reduce traffic to newspapers.

It’s not as if this isn’t a lesson learned: Yahoo licensed content and it is notoriously bad at sending traffic to news sites. It’s almost as if the industry just gave Google a license to hold onto readers.

I think this all displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of Google in the new news architecture and the way to take advantage of that. Rather than getting Google to pay for and display full content, wouldn’t it have been better for the industry — and, by extension, original journalism — to encourage it instead to find more ways to link to reporting at its source?

I keep saying that the industry is not assessing the real threat of Google: It’s advertising. Google is taking over the market for targeted — and next, local — advertising and we are letting them. That is the threat. And they are not assessing the real benefit of Google: links.