Sunday, September 02, 2007

Google hosting wire stories

You'll see a lot on the wires and in the blogosphere in the next few days about an arrangement that lets Google host AP and some other wire stories on its own pages. That means users at Google News will no longer see a multitude of alternative links to those wire stories as they appear on many different newspaper (and other) websites.

That will cost us a little traffic – but not much, and not very valuable. That kind of random, out-of-market traffic in search of generic wire news isn't at the heart of what we do.

I'm not yet fully informed about this – and I do fault the AP for failure to communicate with us adequately about the deal. There are likely to be some yet-unknown implications, but I will say that most of the commentary I've seen so far seems a bit apocalytic.

AP doesn't sell Google its "state wire" with local news that originates from our papers, so that traffic isn't affected. Neither is organic search at

What changes is that Google News readers won't click on one of the multiple newspaper sources previously listed by Google News for basic AP content. And what's the effect of that? It's better for readers, doesn't affect much traffic for us, and could even clear the way on Google News for better display and availability of the genuinely unique material newspaper websites feature.

Anybody whose business plan revolves around drive-by traffic from incidental links to generic AP stories is in deeper trouble than this issue raises.

I'll report more about the details and implications as I know more.


  1. We've talked about this in our shop, and while we aren't terribly concerned about the national/world wires, we are bothered by the fact that AP seems to conveniently forget that it was founded by newspapers and many of its sources of information are those same newspapers.

    The only thing that keeps many newspapers from dropping AP is the photo service. We can get our regional news from most other papers and national news from any of the other half-dozen wire services to which we subscribe. The majority of news we print is local. What we can't quite replicate is the photography.

    AP has strayed far from its newspaper roots. The more it pulls crap like this, the less I respect it. At some point, respect does pay the bills.

  2. I think you're right that for most newspapers this change won't amount to much. It's commodity news that for newspapers covering local markets merely provides background Muzak.

    The state report, however, is a different story. It does provide a lot of value (i.e. drives traffic). People are interested in what happens down the road or in the state capital or even a multi-state area that people would view as part of their region. I hope that doesn't become another commodity.

    Invariably, however, when we run a story on Ethiopia, it gets picked up by an Ethiopian news aggregator and we see decent referral traffic. However, I can't build a business model based on that pattern -- or referrals from Google News.

    We have to build on franchise on providing unique local content and humming to a different tune than the AP's A wire.

    I think Google's real impact will be on national news sites of the TV networks or others who heavily rely on AP's national report for news content.