Why Google convinced big German media

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Posted on Jul 2, 2020 at 4:53 p.m.

By announcing in late June an agreement with a handful of major German media, Google has pierced the united front of the European press in its fight for fair remuneration for its content indexed by the American search engine. Accused by the CEO of Les Echos-Le Parisien group of having “betrayed” their cause, the magazine der Spiegel replies that the new press product being developed with Google is “in the mutual interest of both parties”.

Like him, die Zeit, another national weekly based in Hamburg, was won over by the fact that this new offer, which should see the light of day in the fourth quarter, is in the hands of publishers. The American giant thus offers them to have minipages of reception in the form of boxes installed on that of Google News and Google Discover. “This cooperation gives us additional visibility, better attractiveness and the possibility of increasing the scope of our paid digital offer,” says the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

A risk of cannibalization

Provided that this new showcase does not cannibalize direct flows to the own site of these newspapers for the benefit of Google, we recognize at die Zeit. Especially since Google requires that the main title refers to a free article. Publishers must also commit to updating a large handful of themes daily to bring this welcome mini-page to life. The weekly gives itself a year to find the right balance.

But if they recognize the risk, the license contract prompts publishers an annual remuneration of more than one million euros per year. “It remains to be seen what Google is really willing to pay new” partners “. It could be much less than what they would be entitled to collect on the basis of the European directive of the neighboring rights “imposing a remuneration for the use of any extract of article, warns however Dietrich von Klaeden, senior vice-president in charge of public affairs at Axel Springer.

A pragmatic approach

The directive will not be transposed in Germany for several months but France, which transposed it the first in Europe, obtained a first victory in April against Google. Already members for several years of the “Digital News Initiative” created by Google to develop joint projects with the European press, Die Zeit, der Spiegel, FAZ, Tagesspiegel and the Rheinischer Post do not believe this legal approach.

Theirs is pragmatic. “About a third of our audience comes from Google. This is essential for our advertising model and our subscriptions. It doesn’t make much sense to charge Google money for a few lines of text in the search results. We need Google more than it needs us, ”concludes Enrique Tarragona, CEO of Zeit Online.

According to him, the power of Google rests on its advertiser activity and not on the news. There would therefore be no competition to fear. For its detractors, on the contrary, Google precisely attracts publicity thanks to this information. By allowing it to create its own offer, these alliances risk making it a powerful competitor that would threaten the diversity of information. With the giant of Montain View already having 98% market share in Germany, the game turns out to be risky to say the least.

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