Among the most obvious victims of freeware have been news-gathering organizations. Print publishers and broadcasters seemed well-suited to make the change at first. A print edition cost little more than pocket change and broadcast was almost totally free. In both cases, their real money came from advertisers who wanted access to those masses who followed that media.
Had media companies been willing to meet the challenges for change as they evolved in the middle 90s, perhaps they would have been able to cross the chasm into current times; but they did not. They remained loyal to their subscription models for far too long. They underestimate the small damages like classified ads moving to Craig's List, until those little changes made big differences; many just thought that their professionalism; their access to prominent people and events would allow their old ways to endure new times and new forms of competition.
That brings us to Google, which in my view, has been the most disruptive of all forces on traditional news organizations. Google gives us all free access to content that historically was produced by professionals as a way to earn a living. The advertising that supported media has migrated to the Internet where Google has become the largest beneficiary.
And when media companies say that revenue derived from advertising that supports content they produced, Google has shrugged it's mighty do-no-evil shoulders, telling media companies they are free to not make their content available on Google anymore.
I am no great fan of the public companies that own news-based organizations. neither are the editors and reporters who have worked for them. But that loss of revenue has been the driving force in the brutal reduction in paid news professionals.
Now there are two factors that have entered center stage. The first is Bing, a very nice search engine developed by Microsoft that many users find to be just as good as Google, but not really better in most cases.
Then there's the decision by Rupert Murdoch. mean-spirited billionaire owner of NewsCorp, which is perhaps the world's leading producer of news content, including the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and myriad and diverse other brands.
Murdoch has been persistent in arguing that Google and other search engines should pay professional news organizations for their content inthe form of sharing ad revenues. Google has declined, saying Murdoch is free to withhold his content from Google Search results.
The online community of course sides with Google, which is generally regarded as an ultimately cool company. It's billionaire leadership is younger and far more charming than Murdoch, wh has been called "old school" and clueless in recent days.
Maybe it's a personal thing, but I believe when someone prospers from someone else's work, the original producer should share in that wealth. I think fair beats cool every day.
For those who think social media practitioners can replace all professionals, I'd ask you to think again. A loss of professional news will not make the world safer, freer or better informed place.
For those of you who feel Google shareholders should be the overwhelming profit recipients of reporters hard work, I would ask you to rethink just what is fair and what is not.
In fact, now that I think about it, when Google and the search engines serve up my content-the content you are reading right now--and put an ad next to it, why should I not benefit from the revenue--or you--or anyone else?
Now, News Corp is forging an exclusive deal with Bing that would provide Microsoft's challenging search engine with content not available to people who just use Google. This complicates matters for users, but getting the News Corp content will still cost users nothing.
For those who argue that no news source has value because so many sources now produce news. This is partly true. Likewise, as we recently saw in Iran, on the Hudson River, in Gaza and Mumbai, citizens are very often producing the most valuable news content.
All true. But the world will not be a better or freer place without traditional news organizations. We are not close to the day when bloggers will be invited t attend White House news conferences. Nor will we very often be airdropped to cover wars or national disasters. Some citizen journalists may be digging into investigative efforts, but so far, nothing on the scale of Watergate has emerged.
Most people, myself I know, myself included, and some employed by the man, do not hold Rupert Murdock in a very high regard.
But let's not have that cloud the merits of his case for being compensated fairly for the reuse of NewsCorp content. And because others just happen to think Google is the coolest of Internet companies, one avowed to do no evil, should get away with prospering with intellectual property that others labored to produce.