The future of Newspapers? The Newseum

After writing the March 13th 2009 NewsHammer story, "Google And The Death Of Newspapers", I sent Google an email. How about doing something to help, like change AdSense? No reply.

Another thing, the funny thing about email. With snail mail you usually get a reply.

With Google itself concerned about the fate of newspapers, with Eric Schmidt, Google's Chief Exec delivering a speech in San Diego April 8th 2009 to the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention, I thought there would be some interest in changing Google AdSense to help papers and magazines survive.

The email went out to the Manager of AdSense April 9, 2009 [auto reply same day, ref #423012072] also asking AdSense that my email be CC'd to Eric Schmidt.

The way AdSense works now is Google only pays for click-throughs on their Ads by Google and no matter how many people see these ads on websites, the publishers, the news and magazine sites, the bloggers and their blogs, wind up hosting millions of Google ads for nickels and dimes. Since Google is Number One by far as ad content provider right across the web, nearly all websites are operating at a loss including big publishers. OK, not all Google's fault.

The print publishers have seen their online readership go up and their print sales go down. That's the dilemma and Google's not doing anything about it. Nearly all print publishers have so far been subsidizing their online editions, but as their print editions suffer, they cut staff and cut back on their websites, falling into a spiral that ultimately leads to bankruptcy and more and more often the death of both print and online editions.

With Google AdSense dominating advertising, there's little competition. Google advertisers enjoy a free ride with millions of free website billboards everywhere, so how can other ad content providers beat the Google system? Most don't. They follow Google's lead and still have trouble staying alive. A few speciality ad brokers offer better deals to some publishers who corner a market like travel sites, but there's still not a lot of return.

What's Google's answer? No answer. Google is the new Space Age Teflon of web publishing. No criticism can stick. The future of newspapers for Google? Maybe [pic bottom left] a fashion statement.

As publishers have been finding out it's a little late to fight back. Only a few have been able to charge online readers for exclusive stories like the Wall Street Journal. Others are thinking about charging like Murdoch's chain of newspapers and some big players think that Amazon's new larger format Kindle DX [CNET Video above] might be a way to get people to buy online newspapers like The New York Times, that too makes little money online even though it offers cheap subscriptions that include exclusive articles.

Will Amazon's Kindle save the publishers? Not likely as publishers will be competing with their own print editions for readership. Even if Kindle editions are cheaper, people like the print editions better if they have to pay. We already have such a big electronic culture that print is also the last refuge for those who like to read happily wherever and whenever without toting around another expensive gadget they have to babysit.

The New York Times has figured this out and will only offer Kindle editions outside of their print distribution zone. So it should attract some new readers to NYT and its Boston Globe in on the Kindle deal, but near death if it doesn't work. If Kindle lights a fire, local newspaper publishers without a national presence are still out of luck. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has folded already but hopes to make it on its own online with a staff of 25, down from 165.

There's more of a chance with Kindle for textbook publishers who are faced with very high costs they pass on to students and academics. Portability makes sense here as a pound of Kindle can deliver a ton of textbooks you don't have to cart around campus. Maybe lower prices like with other online books will make the big difference, but if they aren't cheap enough, people will still buy the print editions and students the used copies they can find. Some textbook publishers have signed up with Kindle.

But that doesn't solve the financial mess for newspapers and magazines. Will Google come to their rescue or just watch them fail and blame market forces that Google more or less controls?

What about it Google? Send me an email Eric and I'll publish it here.

And for the record I'm not the only one blaming Google for the failure of the industry and all the job losses including journalists being hung out to dry.

"Execs reveal why newspapers don't block Google" on CNET News May 7th 2009:

To hear the poobahs of traditional media tell it, Google is to print media what global warming is to the polar caps. At many once-stalwart print publications, profits are melting away. . . .

It's quite another Google marketing strategy. You clip content from newspapers and other sites and then sell associated ads without sharing revenue with the content providers. Even the biggest publishers are squawking like Jim Spanfeller, CEO of He claims Google "makes roughly $60 million a year directing folks" to

But publishers aren't so far taking any action. They need Google's links back to their sites, though claiming too that when Google posts a blurb, many readers don't bother with the full articles on their sites, satisfied with a few nuts and bolts delivered by Google.

Link to this Google: "The entire web publishing industry is helpless in the face of the Google juggernaut."

Not long ago before the catastrophic Google on the wall, the industry financed one of the great new museums of the world, to itself, the Newseum in Washington DC. Hope it doesn't turn out to be the ironic but on deadline $450M News Mausoleum.

--Alan Gillis