Newspapers and Google: Stockholm syndrome

July 10, 2008

Jeff Jar­vis pitches up this idea:

What if news­pa­pers handed over much of their work to Google? Edward [Rous­sel of the Tele­graph] reasoned that Google already is the key dis­trib­utor online. He said that Google is great at tech­no­logy and news­pa­pers aren’t and for the future, where are the best tech­no­lo­gists going to go? Google.

Google is also bril­liant at selling ads and Edward even wondered where the best sales tal­ent would go in the future: there or a paper? So why not hand over those seg­ments of the busi­ness to Google and con­cen­trate on what a news­pa­per should do: journalism?

I don’t dis­agree with the ana­lysis, but I can point out the prob­lems. Most of my life has been spent on the sup­ply side of journ­al­ism in tele­vi­sion news. TV news never saw the ad rev­en­ues from its pro­grammes — so man­aging was all cost con­trol, all the time.

That’s what hand­ing over those “seg­ments of the busi­ness” means. You don’t gain free­dom to con­cen­trate on journ­al­ism. You lose whatever fin­an­cial lever­age you had left, and get used to cut­ting year in, year out.

Whilst news­pa­pers still have ground, they shouldn’t — and won’t — rush to give it up. But are they on the slide? You bet.