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Google helping newspapers?

I recently retweeted Siva Vaidhyanathan’s link to Eric Schmidt’s op-ed, “How Google can help newspapers.” It’s a great article. For anyone that missed it, I’ve included the link here.

The article begins with how Schmidt envisions Internet technologies in five years, describing optimum speed and accessibility promised now, but not always available. He addressed the events we’ve witnessed – the death of the afternoon newspaper with the introduction of 24-hour news and the creation of hand-held technology with FREE access to whatever stories the consumer wants. But Eric Schmidt takes a very different approach from the article’s beginning. Online writing, valued for its free, easy and fast accessibility, Schmidt says, often isn’t any of the three.

“I can flip through pages much faster in the physical edition of the Journal than I can on the Web. And every time I return to a site, I am treated as a stranger,” he says.

While Schmidt values print as a preferred news source, he adds that newspapers, losing their revenue from advertisers to the Internet, are dwindling. Rather than blaming search engines such as Google for their failure, Schmidt says that newspapers should be embracing Google as just what they need to fight for existence.

“Google is a great source of promotion. We send online news publishers a billion clicks a month from Google News and more than three billion extra visits from our other services, such as Web Search and iGoogle. That is 100,000 opportunities a minute to win loyal readers and generate revenue—for free. In terms of copyright, another bone of contention, we only show a headline and a couple of lines from each story. If readers want to read on they have to click through to the newspaper’s Web site. (The exception are stories we host through a licensing agreement with news services.) And if they wish, publishers can remove their content from our search index, or from Google News.”

Schmidt also claims that Google recognizes that the many inaccuracies published, viewed, and linked to on the Internet create issues for the news consumer.

His solution:

“Google is serious about playing its part. We are already testing, with more than three dozen major partners from the news industry, a service called Google Fast Flip. The theory—which seems to work in practice—is that if we make it easier to read articles, people will read more of them. Our news partners will receive the majority of the revenue generated by the display ads shown beside stories.”

His (or rather, Google’s) ideas are great. Maybe the death of print news isn’t inevitable.

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