Google News chief deflects challenge to share revenue

The global boss of Google News ducked editors’ demands for a share of the search giant’s advertising revenue during his appearance at the Society of Editors conference.

Nathan Stoll, product manager for Google News, spoke the day after Press Holdings chief executive Andrew Neil opened the conference with the suggestion that it was “time to talk to Google” about the vast advertising revenues it is making thanks to journalists’ work. Stoll said: “Online content and web search engines exist — in fact, can only exist — as symbiotic partners, both of whom profit as technology enables more users to find the information they’re looking for.”

Glasgow Herald editor Charles McGhee, the outgoing president of the Society, pressed Stoll to address Neil’s suggestion that newspapers should demand revenue-sharing.

Stoll replied carefully, stressing newspapers’ choice to opt out of Google’s indexing and insisting that the service works within the fair dealing provisions of copyright law by using small portions of news sites’ material to drive traffic to their publishers’ sites.

He also said that helping publishers to build sustainable online businesses was in Google’s interests.

He said: “Without a healthy base of publishers, there won’t be a base of high-quality content for search engine users.”

Speaking to Press Gazette after the session, Stoll said Google News was not against plans for a new rights management system being proposed by publishing industry bodies.

In September, a consortium of international publishing bodies, which includes the World Association of Newspapers, proposed a new system that would let online publishers embed terms and conditions for the use of their content by search engines. The publishing associations say the proposed “Automated Content Access Protocol” or ACAP, would help avoid copyright disputes such as the one that led a group representing Belgian newspapers to sue Google.

Stoll said: “We’re certainly willing to work with the ACAP proposal from the WAN to any extent possible to make sure that future technologies work well for publishers.”

He warned that existing publishers may not be the ones to thrive online: “You can’t get away from the fact that new technology and technological change is disruptive. But there are many publishers that are succeeding online, publishers which are building successfully profitable businesses. There are new publishers that are building new brands and new experiences.”

Existing publishers would have to find innovative ways to thrive online. He highlighted the American newspaper group McClatchy, which recently bought Knight-Ridder. “Their belief is that local content — quality, original local journalism — will be the sustainable model because it’s not duplicated content that other people will be able to reproduce.”

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