Google News Under Fire, Offers Peace Pipe
A rush of new initiatives seemingly designed to placate the likes of chief Google News hater Rupert Murdoch has emerged in the past few weeks out of the search giant's Mountain View, Calif.-based retreat.
Google, partnering with The Washington Post and The New York Times, on Wednesday rolled out Living Stories -- which Google describes as an "integrated approach to story-telling" but what some others are calling a peace offering to newspapers.
Last week, Google introduced new programming code that makes it simpler for publishers of online media to block access to their content by Google News. Those automated "opt-out" procedures for publishers followed increasingly strident criticism of the aggregator's role in online media distribution by some of the publishing industry's heaviest hitters, including the Associated Press and News Corp.'s Murdoch.
In recent weeks, some large online media publishers have called into question whether Google -- and other online news aggregators -- should even have the right to package the copyrighted content produced by others for the Web. The rising backlash against news aggregators culminated in Murdoch's testimony last week to U.S. Federal Trade Commission regulators at an FTC workshop that such businesses are engaged in "theft" and are "feeding off the hard-earned efforts and investments of others."
Aside from the tweaks to its indexing protocols, Google also appears to be trotting out Google News point man Josh Cohen on to counter critics like Murdoch. At the same FTC-sponsored workshop in Washington D.C. that Murdoch appeared at, Cohen regaled attendees with tales of the billions of clicks and dollars that Google News and its AdSense program channel to Web publishers each year, according to the New York Observer.
Cohen later told the Observer that all the changes to Google News were "not pegged to specific events" -- meaning criticism from the likes of Murdoch -- but were instead the result of months of discussions with numerous online publishers.