Can you imagine a world where Google had to pay for every link that appears when you do a search? That would be a real game changer, would it not?
While this sounds far fetched, a bit of an insurrection could be on the horizon. And it is beginning with Google News. What’s happening is that a group of about 150 news sites in Brazil, which make up about 90% of the market share in that country, are making a pact to leave Google News. The websites belong to the National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) in Brazil. This organization had been in negotiations with Google, and they wanted the search engine to pay a fee for linking to content.
Google executives protested, and said that the plan would backfire and would hurt those sites by curtailing traffic, but the association said that the site is not relevant and made an announcement that the members had decided to withdraw from the site. And that they did. ANJ now claims that they have only seen a drop of about 5% in traffic since they made the decision.
At this point, this may not seem like a huge deal. Brazil is important, but it is just one country of many. But here is where the problem could come in for Google: News sites in France, Italy and Germany are close to shutting off Google News, too. They want the search giant to pay some sort of Google ‘tax,’ and like Brazil, they are threatening to ban Google if they refuse to comply. There was a meeting between the French prime minister and a Google executive that was reported to be quite contentious.
These sorts of threats have been made in the past, but now we have one country who has actually made good on this threat, and is not yet suffering serious losses. So, other countries and companies may decide to try this as well.
In the short view, other countries may now have reason to think their business will not be harmed. And in the long view, more countries doing this ban could give many media firms a lot more leverage in negotiating with Google. After all, the attraction of Google News is that it looks all through the Internet to find the best pages for you. If many news sites are not part of Google News, the value of the utility decreases.
All of this bears watching in the coming months, as we see what exactly becomes of Google News.