Publishers can charge Google to index news under EU plans

Author avatar

Stephen Kenwright

The European Commission wants to give news publishers ‘exclusive rights’ to make their content available to the public however they choose. Essentially publishers will be able to charge search engines to display snippets of their content and send them traffic.

This isn’t without precedent – an IP law passed in Spain in 2014 charged Google and other news aggregators to show snippets of news stories and link to them ultimately ended with Google shutting down its News product in the country.

The Spanish publishing industry commissioned a study to determine the impact of the so-called “Google Tax” and found that, essentially, it was pretty bad news. From Ars Technica:

In the short-term, the study found, the law will cost publishers €10 million, or about $10.9 million, which would fall disproportionately on smaller publishers. Consumers would experience a smaller variety of content, and the law “impedes the ability of innovation to enter the market.”

Germany and Belgium previously attempted to “tax” search engines in a similar way but publishers were allowed to opt out – which many inevitably did when their traffic started to disappear. The latest EU proposals also allow publishers to opt out.

What this means

  • Paying to link to content only applies to aggregators (and is really only aimed at search engines). Users will still be able to share content without penalty – if they can find it without the help of a search engine.
  • The idea that brands would pay news organisations for distribution and news organisations would then be paid to have their content distributed for them is pretty stupid.
  • Google doesn’t really make money from Google News so if it had to pay to populate the feature it would probably just shut it down. The only time this would be viable for Google is when Google is charging for the advertising on publishers’ websites in the first place.
  • Most publishers who want this are overly dependent on search traffic. Buzzfeed gets 75% of its traffic from social (more interesting stats here). Opting in – or not opting out – will cost most publishers huge amounts of traffic and will benefit Buzzfeed, VICE etc. which will be completely legitimised as a place to put ad dollars.
  • The most cost effective way for Google to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” would be to build a newsroom or buy a social network.

The proposals will be published in September. This will not work. In the meantime this is how you get into Google News.

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