[27 October 2010]
While it’s nice to see Google investing five million dollars in news services, it’s not all altruistic. After all, if respected news services dry up (as they’ve been doing for the last several years), Google won’t be able to aggregate good, solid news stories through its own service. As the article also notes, it’s smart business-wise for Google since to keep their own news service linking to other news services, they stand to gain by giving something back: “(this is) a way for the organization to put some money where its mouth is when it comes to its relations with journalism.”
But the main problem is that as generous as the gift is, it’s not nearly enough. That’s not to say that Google should necessarily have to pony up more money to these other news org’s (though it be nice if they would) but that even an amount like five million is a drop in the bucket compared to all the money that the news industry has lost in the last several years. I’m sure that Knight will find a good way to use the money but some publication LOSE about five mil or more each year.
While it’s good to have this money floating into the news pool, it’s not sufficient because unless you’re going to have a constant stream of high profile donations like this, it won’t be enough to sustain many news org’s. Indeed, it’s probably unrealistic to expect such philanthropy nowadays (esp. in the States). And with the current political climate, the thought of another American industry getting a bail out just ain’t gonna fly.
Which is why it’s (still) boot-strap time for news organizations and publications- they’re going to have to pull themselves out of this mess. It ain’t a pretty prospect, especially since they haven’t shown a great track record for this and the only big idea which is seen as a cure-all right now is pay walls (which itself is a suspect solution). But the ground rules remain the same- innovate, experiment and find new ways to engage readers. That’s the only long-term way these pubs are gonna survive and not through the generosity of Google or elsewhere. It’s tough love but it’s true.