Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

"Google Devalues Everything It Touches" - Wall Street Journal Chief

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 12, 2009

Charlie Rose today started a series on the future of journalism.

A conversation about the future of newspapers with Walter Isaacson of "Time," Robert Thomson of "Wall Street Journal" and Mort Zuckerman of "The New York Daily News"

It was a fascinating discussion about micropayments, subscription models, and how newspapers can adapt to the challenge of low online ad revenues. And Poynter.org produced an excellent transcript.

Robert Thomson, Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal, said many interesting things that showed a deeper understanding of the issues than the other panelists.

Mr Thomson said, "Google devalues everything it touches. Google is great for Google but it's terrible for content providers." He said that Google doesn't distinguish between the quality of the content around which it serves up ads, it is concerned with quantity rather than quality.

Walter Isaacson agreed. "Also, what Google does is it allows ads to be spread all over the Web. You can go to Google ad servers and put ads on any site there is."

Mort Zuckerman didn't think that micropayments for news articles would work. He said "We're ready to be the second or third newspaper that does that."

Mrt Zuckerman placed his hope in a new printing press. "You get a premium from advertisers if you have color."

Charlie Rose said,"But you're saying maybe the only thing that your new business model has in it is a better printing press and a cheaper printing press?"

Mr Thomson laughed off camera. Mr Zuckerman said, "Well, it's not -- yes, well, it's more efficient. We don't like to call it cheaper."

Mr Thomson supported Mr Zuckerman's belief that newspapers wouldn't go away. "I think Mort is on to something. Dead trees are definitely not dead. . . the idea of spending 30 minutes with any medium, with -- and the only multitasking you're doing is drinking a cup of coffee, that does make newspapers unique. And actually if you talk to ad people, they're starting to recognize that."

Mr Isaacson said nice things about citizen journalists and bloggers. "We're getting citizen journalists, bloggers, that are adding immensely to the wealth of information that we have."

He said that citizen journalists should be paid. "I think what you are trying to do is incent good, decent people who want to cover their town planning meeting or become citizen journalists or write blogs that are actually worth reading. You want them to be able to do it not just as an ego kick or as a hobby or as a civic contribution, but have people who have to put food on their table be able to afford to be citizen journalists, afford to be good bloggers."

The most important point was said by Mr Thomson: "Every newspaper is of itself a great brand, and to have brand value on the Web is to have a great advantage."

Mr Thomson has a better understanding of the issues because he spent several years as Editor of The Times newspaper in London. British newspapers have been able to adapt to, and exploit the Internet, in ways that US newspapers are only now learning.

[I used to work with Mr Thomson when he was Editor of the Financial Times in the US. And I met with him on a recent trip to New York. He said that on The Times, they had a team of people making sure that the news stories could be easily indexed by Google, but US newspapers are only just beginning to do the same.]

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Please see:

Poynter.org has an excellent transcript here:

And I begin with you, Walter. Tell me how bad is it, from all the surveys that you took in putting this piece together, and what's a modest proposal?

WALTER ISAACSON, ASPEN INST.: I think it's pretty bad, because I think we've realized after the fourth quarter of last year in which Web advertising for newspapers started to decline, that Web advertising wasn't going to continue to shoot up and form a business model where you could keep giving away newspapers for free online and hope that Web advertising would support it.

Poynter Online - Romenesko

Here is the video of the Charlie Rose segment.


http://www.charlierose.com/view/content/10075


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