Fox News mogul Rupert Murdoch recently called for news websites to start charging readers. He blasted Google, stating, "The question is, should we be allowing Google to steal all our copyright... not steal, but take. Not just them but Yahoo."
Google News has long been one of the most popular news aggregators, gathering news from the likes of the Associated Press, The New York Times, and Reuters. All of this content is offered to readers for free, though readers provide a steady source of advertising revenue that frequently surpasses that of print news. But that just isn't enough, according to Mr. Murdoch.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has offered up a fiery rebuke to Rupert Murdoch's comments. He states, "I would encourage everybody to think in terms of what your reader wants. These are ultimately consumer businesses and if you piss off enough of them, you will not have any more."
Mr. Schmidt says that Google's content is "fair use", stating, "From our perspective there is always a tension around fair use and fair use is a balance of interest in favor of the consumer."
He thinks that newspapers and magazines initially pushed for open web access, but are now turning their backs on this pro-customer mentality. He states, "You guys did a superb job, and the act after that is a harder question."
Alexander Macgillivray, Google's intellectual property counsel also admonished Mr. Murdoch's accusations of theft, writing, "Users like me are sent from different Google sites to newspaper websites at a rate of more than a billion clicks per month. These clicks go to news publishers large and small, domestic and international - day and night. And once a reader is on the newspaper's site, we work hard to help them earn revenue. Our AdSense program pays out millions of dollars to newspapers that place ads on their sites, and our goal is that our interest-based advertising technology will help newspapers make more from each click we send them by serving better, more relevant ads to their readers to generate higher returns."
As to accusations that readers only peruse Google News and don't travel to the source sites, he adds, "In all cases, for news articles we've crawled and indexed but do not host, we show users just enough to make them want to read more - the headline, a "snippet" of a line or two of text and a link back to to the news publisher's website."
Ultimately the battle between Google and news moguls may heat up as the economy continues to struggle. After years of glutting themselves on a steady diet of subscriptions and advertising, the print news business is seeing advertising move online and subscriptions disappearing. Afraid of this change, many of the news industry's biggest offline players may lash out at the likes of Google, but ultimately they may just be biting the hand that feeds and worsening their plight.