Neither friend nor foe: Google is just the messenger

By Jasper Jackson

Google’s online dominance puts it at the heart of forces undermining the traditional news publishing industry.

But a Frontline Club panel on Google’s relationship with publishers on Wednesday focused on the wave of technological change behind the search giant that means the industry must "innovate or die".

If you couldn’t be there on the night, you can watch the whole thing here:

Trinity Mirror’s digital content director Matt Kelly said that newspapers were "blinded" by the internet’s ability to expand readership, but they are confusing reach with audience.

He said building an engaged audience of returning readers was far more important than attracting "transient" site traffic from Google, and can deliver higher ad revenues.

I’d much rather have one click from Twitter than a 100 clicks from Google because it means that somebody said ‘check this out, this is fun this is good’. We built [gossip site] 3am.co.uk deliberately to perform badly in search engines.

Google UK’s head of PR and communications and former Newsnight editor Peter Barron conceded that Google may not have cooperated effectively with publishers in the past. However, he blamed what Kelly referred to as an "arrogant" approach on the company’s rapid expansion – which outstripped its ability to recruit enough staff, something the firm has now corrected.

Barron also challenged the assumption that Google is opposed to charging for content: "There is a lot of mythology that we stand for everything must be free on the web – that’s not the case. There are lots of great things on the web that people pay for all the time."

PaidContent:UK editor Robert Andrews said he admired the "ballsiness" of Rupert Murdoch’s paywall experiment, but he said everyone is asking: "What is Rupert Murdoch’s plan B?" He said there was every chance that papers in their current form could be wiped out by what was essentially a broad economic shift.

There was no great ball newspapers dropped when moving online. This was just a different medium, and newspapers had no divine right to come and dominate it.

Wired and Press Gazette columnist  Peter Kirwan stressed that papers may only be saved by switching to an online model where operating costs match the reduced income from switching from print ads to online: "The possibility of a digital-only business is starting to open up."

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