Online News VS. Search Engines

Billionaire investor Sam Zell recently bought Tribune Corp. for 8.2 billion. Sorry – let’s give that number the respect it deserves – 8.2 Billion dollars. Seems like a lot of money to be spending on a medium that seems to allegedly lose money with every edition. Mr. Zell claims that the newspaper business is hemorrhaging money, in part, due to the bad deals newspapers negotiated with search engines.

At a speech at Stanford Law School Mr. Zell suggested that if Google wasn’t allowed to “steal” the newspaper’s content for nothing, Google wouldn’t be nearly as profitable. Now I can’t say anything about how much money Google makes off of freely distributed news content but from my perspective, I don’t go to Google to find my news and I suspect that might be the case for others too.

Google does offer a News Alert service that emails snippets of stories to people and those snippets contain links to the full stories. Most webmasters I know go out of their way to get included in the Google Alert system as it can be profitable in terms of traffic. Does this mean that Mr. Sam Zell wants to remove their websites from the Google Alert system? If he does then I can’t see how that would be helpful to the newspaper’s website’s bottom line. Further to that point I guess it is true… you can’t teach an old dog new tricks Mr. Zell and I hope that the 8.2 Billion you dropped on this venture wasn’t your last 8.2 Billion!

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