Enter WAN-IFRA on Google search and 243,000 links immediately pop up. The numbers speak volumes on the scale and magnitude of the event that is being held in Hyderabad, the first ever in South Asia. But then here comes the corollary: members affiliated to WAN-IFRA, led by the erstwhile management team, want answers from Google and other content aggregators on the rampant use – or abuse – by users that is burning a hole in the pockets of publishers.
Strange as it may sound, where on the one hand search engines help push the salience and scope of the brand, on the other hand, the content generators feel being constantly misused and not being paid appropriately for use of their service.
In the session on ‘What do we do about Google? The great debate’, senior members from WAN-IFRA chose to put Google under the scanner and blame it for the several manipulations and losses it was causing to the content-generating community – namely the publishers.
The organisers began by questioning David Drummond, Senior VP & Chief Legal Counsel, Google Inc, USA, on the dubious focus that the online giant portrayed towards content on the web. “While the CEO says that it is a huge moral imperative to help newspapers, there comes another statement a little later stating that ‘we’re good for journalism’. It cannot get more contradicting than this. We publishers will have to ask ourselves and the online giants whether we need a sort of a recovery act to bring the legal landscape in line with today’s publishing technology,” stated Kees Spaan, President, Dutch Newspaper Publishers Association & Chairman, Copyright Working Party.
Sensing the heated aura that would be generated thereof, Drummond began by calling for a soft truce by stating, “Please don’t shoot, I am unarmed and I come with peace.” He, however, counter-questioned the gathering by stating, “If Google didn’t exist today, will the industry be better off? Apart from being a part of your problem, we want to play a proactive role in providing solutions.” He continued by bringing some facts to the attention of the audience. “Some of you may be frustrated for not getting any returns from Google, but that is not entirely true. We help you get your page views; and users go to the web to get information and we are just providers of that information,” he said.
As for some mechanism related to monetisation, Drummond said that Google was working on the ‘first click through’ method, where users could view five stories only and for any info beyond that, they would have to pay. “We are also in the process of launching a crawler or indexer wherein publishers can instruct us on the role that we need to play with regards to the use of content. But all this is possible only after we sit across and agree on concrete solutions that will be beneficial to both the parties.”