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.

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