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Kangaroo Court? Our take on Australia Vs Google

Google did not become the world’s most widest visited website by accident. The purpose of their search engine is to serve up the best search results for a user. Now the Australian government thinks they should have to pay someone else when they do a good job.

A recent code proposed in Australia would force Google (and even Facebook) to pay news websites for displaying their content. Not even all of the content, or most of the content, but content that drives traffic to their website.

Now maybe it’s just because I’m an SEO for small businesses, but isn’t traffic supposed to help news websites? Traffic that comes from the service Google provides? Could Google start charging for that traffic? No, that would be silly.

Before we continue, it’s very important to point out, ANYONE can add 1 line of code to a website telling Google not to show their website (or certain pages) in the search results, so at this point a news website has consented to their content being indexed on the search engine. Probably because that’s what keeping traffic to their website, which they make money on.

Not only is it consensual indexing of content, but the snippets Google displays are controllable, and quite limited in character size.

To take it even further into government overreach, the tech giant has be threatened with a huge fine if they do not comply or retaliate against the news websites.

What’s next? Instagram paying me to post pictures of my food?

If I were Google, I would agree to pay news sites for sharing their content so long as the paid-for content is well defined. Anything more than the article’s headline? Just show users the headline. See how quickly the news websites scramble to get their content shared on Google’s service again. They will, because they benefit much more than Google does by indexing and sending traffic to their content. But then will the government force a company to provide them a service? Possibly.

So where did this come from? Google’s been doing this since ’98.

My guess is news companies have quickly seen the shift in consumer habits over the years. No people Google to find websites. That’s the reason Google existed in the first place; to make it easier to find websites users were looking for. But before that you could still go to thenews.com from your browser. Google didn’t invent that, DARPA did.

At first, articles being posted online was an extra to the paper publishing of the news of yesteryear. Then it wasn’t uncommon to read articles online with spammy ad boxes everywhere. Then came the age of the pay-wall. Most news websites now make you buy a subscription and sign in the view the entire article.

Somewhere along the line, users decided it was more convenient to read their news online vs paying for a print subscription. Shouldn’t the newspapers be able to make ends meet on their website ads? Or if not the ads, the subscriptions should be good enough?

Apparently not. It must be that Google made the news so accessible to everyone with an internet connection that the industry itself became oversaturated with free content. If these companies couldn’t make ends meet on ads or subscriptions, it wasn’t because the demand was too low, it was because the supply was too high.

Anyone nowadays can start a news website. But in Australia, they aren’t proposing anyone be able to profit from it being search-able. Only the big guys. My blogs won’t see a cent under this new code, but mostly because I’m not in Australia.

End rant.

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