When reading about developments in the ailing printed news industry, we tend to hear arguments presented from the old media side of the fence. Now Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, has stepped up, and he thinks the industry will survive, in a different form.
Schmidt’s company is regularly the target of disparaging comments from old media moguls like Rupert Murdoch–it faces accusations that vary from outright content stealing (under the “aggregator” or “hot news” banner, depending on what the complaint is) to devaluing the work of “real” journalists. So it’s good to hear Schmidt say, when speaking to a group of industry leaders yesterday, that “journalism will triumph” and that sometime soon the newspaper industry will turn a corner and once again be profitable. Schmidt even referred to the profession of journalism as an “art.”
And in the middle of it all, he chose to denigrate the blogging world and noted that newspaper’s fears about their future may be allayed by casting their eye at blogs. Schmidt’s implication was clear: Newspapers have nothing to fear from Google, and their worries about the rise of the blog are unfounded–presumably because in Schmidt’s eyes the average blog is neither “art” nor journalistic.
Will the old news industry believe Schmidt? Possibly, but maybe not for the right reasons. Google is almost all-powerful in terms of enabling successful Net publishing, and its onward clicks can certainly drive huge numbers of visitors to Web sites–where their page views directly translate into revenue through the Web ad placement model. This is of course true for blogs, new media news sites, and the Web portals that the old newsprint industry is feverishly setting up (and now defending with paywalls.) So the newspapers almost need to have Google on their side, aiding them to be competitive in this crowded field–unless you’re of Rupert Murdoch’s mindset, in denial of Google’s true power.
But there’s another reason to be doubtful of Schmidt’s position: money. Schmidt noted that while the news industry would ultimately thrive, and good journalism will lie at the heart of this, the way it does business needs to transform: It must become more personalized to its users (who make up “more readers than ever” if you compare click-through counts to falling newspaper subscriptions,) and discover “new forms of making money.” They also, presumably, must learn to operate in a more real-time manner…at least if they’re choosing to follow Google’s lead in trying to get Web searching and info access down to per-second timeliness. And who’s in a masterful position to help these publications embrace the new truth–or sell them the tools and services which may make this possible? Google. Of course.