Google+Agencies= return to good content?

Google news has announced a deal with four of the big news syndicators. You can read about it here , here and a good take from Paid content

The New York Times article ends with a doomsday warning to newspapers

Because of Google’s campaign to simultaneously reduce duplicate articles, the original wire service article is likely to be featured in Google News instead of versions of the same article from newspaper customers, sapping ad revenue to those newspapers.

Panic ensues. But according to coverage in Forbes. It seems that figures may not support that

Referrals from Google News accounted for 2.2 percent of the traffic at newspaper Web sites during the week ending Aug. 25, according to another research firm, Hitwise. Broadcast sites got 1.5 percent of their traffic from Google News during the same period, Hitwise said.

Of course the article doesn’t go in to what the conversion rate on advertising is on that 2.2 percent – it could be a pretty rich 2.2%.  But with so many organisations looking to online ads as a key economic pillar in their strategies, regardless of the percentages, this is bound to hurt.

Fear not though. In the same article in Forbes, Josh Cohen of Google thinks this is an opportunity for news sites:

“This may result in certain publishers losing traffic for their news wire stories, but it will allow more room for their original content,”

Now you might  think that Google telling media sites to effectively go away and produce some original stuff is a little rich. But consider this from Doug Fisher who ponders what the reaction of media groups will be in retaliation:

If publishers drop the words, can the video stand on its own on those Web sites? Will those newsrooms even want it to? (My prediction — yes, because it’s an easy, cheap way for a lot of newsrooms to make it seem like they are “doing” video.)

Media organisations have been using wire copy, not just video, to give the impression that they are doing journalism for a long time. And now that Google have used their financial and technical leverage to do the same – without any pretense to the lie that all this copy is analysed and finessed by journos –  it’s easy to despair at the lack of forethought by media groups.

If it highlights nothing else, the talk around the deal shows just how much the industry has relied on a model shovelware publishing of news feeds to get a foothold in the digital arena.  And now that the economics have priced the trad media out of the game it is also a timely reminder of how the outsourcing of content creation  coupled with the underfunding of proper analysis will hurt journalism in the digital future.

On that note Alf Hermida has good advice:

The message is clear. Start building up your original content, be distinctive, offer something that readers cannot find elsewhere, rather than simply filling up your news site with recycled agency copy

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