It’s not as though Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) CEO Sly Bailey hasn’t made her views against Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and for professional journalism clear before to policymakers. But her keynote at Friday’s Digital Britain Summit left us with a ream of great quotes all the same, suggesting newspapers are ceding control to Google by playing the numbers game…
– “We are flag-waving our way out of business”: “We’ve been playing in to the hands of the very businesses that play so fast and loose with our content in the first place. We’ve become dependent on pats on the back from new kids on the block who tell us what the rules are.“
– “Eroding our ability to thrive tomorrow”: “We have eroded the value of news – news has become ubiquitous, completely commoditised – without value to anyone other than to us as publishers – and that’s because we pay for it.” Sly said readers “discover (stories) on Google, read it on our site and then flit away before discovering it was (us) who created it in the first place … they click on an ad served up to them by Google for which we get no return”.
– Blogs can’t fund real journalism: Huffington Post’s new investigative journalism fund: “$1.75 million, wow – believe me, you don’t get many investigations for that – the total market of newspapers exceeds $180 billion, according to PwC … In a sea of content, there is still a voracious appetite for professional journalism. Journalism remains a constant where, in the blogosphere, separating the good, the bad and ugly can be difficult.”
So what’s the answer… ?
– Stop playing the numbers game: “Move away from the general, commoditised packages of news and concentrate on our areas of content where we have unique and intrinsic value. It means rejecting the relentless quest for a gazillion unique users, focusing instead on delivering loyal valuable readers … Let me tell you, unique users don’t pay the wages.”
– Celebrate unique advantage: Regional papers “set a kitemark for content” and are vital to local democracy, Bailey said: “Local papers, not west coast search engines, are the organisations that cover the crown and magistrates courts.” “I still think we are at a point where we can better guide our own destinies, not simply depend on the destinies of algorithms and search engine optimisation.”
– Stop councils competing: “Councils masquerading as newspapers have the potential to seriously destabilise existing media businesses.”
– Let publishers consolidate: Bailey joined other publishers in advocating reform of media merger law, something she’s likely to get: “We are not asking for state support – all we are asking for is a 21st century merger regime to support 21st century media. Concern about our dominant position simply don’t apply (anymore) – we have a myriad of well-funded digital competitors. Any merger regulation which doesn’t take Google, RightMove or Monster in to account isn’t fit for purpose. Allowing us to merge and consolidate is the only way we’ll be able to meet these threats head-on.”
– Alternatively…: The risk if consolidation is not allowed? “Superdominant players like Google and the death of journalism as we know it.”