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Can the Brazilian press survive without Google?

By William Turvill

Most of Brazil’s newspapers made the decision to pull out of Google News last week, meaning the search engine no longer has permission to preview news stories.

The country’s National Association of Newspapers, representing 90 per cent of the nation’s newspaper circulation, announced that its members had unanimously agreed to pull their material.

The association claimed Google was benefitting financially from the 154 titles and driving traffic away from their sites.

The group was disappointed when the search engine refused to start compensating news websites for their headlines, and has been recommending an opt-out of the service for more than a year.

Explaining the decision, the newspaper association Carlos Fernando Lindenberg Neto said Google News was having a negative impact on digital audience figures for the titles.

He told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas: “By providing the first few lines of our stories to internet users, the service reduces the chances that they will look at the entire story in our websites.”

Robin Yapp, The Daily Telegraph’s former Brazil correspondent, believes that while this plan would falter in many countries, the Brazilian press might be able to pull it off.

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“I wouldn’t say it’s impossible because, compared to certain other markets – the UK, US and many other places – Google News is a less significant factor to begin with,” he told Press Gazette.

“In other places it would probably be madness for other papers to take this stand. In Brazil, Google doesn’t have the global domination it sometimes seems to have in places like the UK and the US.”

Yapp, who was based in Brazil’s biggest city Sao Paulo, believes that it may not be the intention of the newspapers to stay permanently off Google News, but could use the omission as a bartering tool.

“I’d be surprised if they opt straight back in in the next few weeks. I expect they’ll give it some time – maybe for a bargaining position,” he said.

“And as Brazil continues to grow and becomes more important in world terms – this process is already underway and is probably going to accelerate rapidly in the next two to four years with the World Cup and Olympics coming – Google may want to think about its relationship with Brazil.

“I would expect there will be a bit of a standoff now and it will be fascinating to see how it is resolved. But it is very difficult to make a hard prediction about that.”

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