back to article Report commissioned by Google says Google isn't to blame for the death of print news

It would be fair to say that the recent decades have not been kind to the newspaper industry. The rot set in during the 70s and 80s' and was accelerated by the rise of the internet, which had the unfortunate side effect of winnowing newsrooms, with titles shuttered and countless P45s issued. The finger of blame has often been …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Report commissioned by Google

    . . is in favor of Google.

    Wow, that's astonishing. Must be totally unbiased and truthful.

    Honestly, I would like to be a fly on the wall in the kind of meeting where a multinational behemoth comes with a suitcase full money and states what report it wants and what results it wants.

    I'd really like to see the face of those so-called "journalists" eyeing the money and saying "sure, we can do that".

    Just to see hypocrisy in the flesh.

    Once, just once, I would like to see a report commissioned by somebody that did not conclude in favor of that someone. As it is, these days, every time you hear of a report with favorable conclusions for something, all you need to do is ask "which entity commissioned that report ?" to know why.

    The whole system is despicable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Report commissioned by Google

      Google has strict rules about Reports commissioned by Google.

      1. matjaggard

        Re: Report commissioned by Google

        Just because it's commissioned by Google, doesn't mean it's not true. In fact I suspect they're completely right about the demise of print news - it started long before Google were around.

        However, the last part of the article explains exactly why they did this - to avoid answering difficult questions now. Yes I agree that Google didn't cause the problem but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be the solution. We can't have a monopoly or even duopoly in such a big market, it's just not fair play.

        It's not necessarily outcome of the report that you have to query - often its why is this the question to be asked and in this case the cause of the decline is irrelevant.

    2. Marty McFly Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: Report commissioned by Google

      In other surprising news...

      "A report commissioned by the Big Bad Wolf found that the Big Bad Wolf was not involved in the collapse of two houses owned by Little Pigs."

  2. Dinanziame Silver badge

    Funnily, this could happen to Google as well. The problem of the newspapers is that the way they benefit to society — news — is distinct from the way they made their money: ads. Somebody came up that was more efficient at ads, and they lost their source of revenue. We regret this, because society really needs the news, otherwise nobody would mind their passing, same as nobody cares that phone books and yellow pages are gone.

    Google also benefits society in a way that is completely distinct from the way they make money. Somebody might well show up who would serve ads even better, and it would be Google's turn to cry for help.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Society really needs the news, unfortunately we don’t get news from print media. Just bias and distortion.

      If you’ve ever been close to a major news story and compare the reality you know to what is reported then you would never trust a paper again. They are embarrassing and responsible for their own downfall. As the older generations who habitually read dailies, and swallow every word, die off we will see the end of these rags.

      They’ve never lived up to “public interest”. They are a toxin on society.

      I don’t know what will replace them, social media is shaping up to be even worse.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Some newspapers have always been shit but others have done great reporting.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          You mean the ones that match your own bias.?

          They are shit. All of them. 19th Century technology desperate to stay relevant.

  3. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Partly true

    Local papers survived on their advertising revenue - a large part of which used to be from housing ads. This part of their income has all but vanished as advertising on Rightmove is far more effective. The classified ads for tradesmen has to a large part been gobbled by Google. Much of the vehicle advertising has moved to Autotrader, manufacturers websites and eBay. Secondhand items are no longer advertised in local papers - eBay is more effective. The bits of advertising that are left (eg sales at local shops) are not enough to sustain anything like the previous range of local papers.

    Print media advertising can not compete with internet advertising for speed or number and quality of photos. (Any photos printed on standard newspaper are restricted to poor quality - far worse than quality of photos available on the internet.)

    Unfortunately local papers (barring special circumstances eg the Metro in London) are going to die out. (The Metro has a large fairly captive audience in London commuters.)

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Partly true

      Sales at local shops would be FaceBook I think? I don't know, I never go there.

      Have you been to London recently? It is a ghost town. On the Bakerloo Line at Oxford Circus in the morning peak, previously people would have been packed in the carriage armpit to armpit. Now you share the carriage with about 5 other people.

      1. Stanislav Bonita
        Facepalm

        Re: Partly true

        Ever heard of COVID?

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Partly true

          I have indeed heard of it.

          Compared to other places, including outer London, central London is a ghost town.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Partly true

      The Metro is free. Put a £1 cover price on it and it will die overnight.

      1. nijam Silver badge

        Re: Partly true

        > The Metro is free. Put a £1 cover price on it and it will die overnight.

        The Metro is free. Put a 1p cover price on it and it will die overnight.

  4. The Sprocket

    This isn't a new story. The handwriting has been on the wall since the late 90's. And the news biz has done precious little except reluctantly getting online, and having their lunch eaten. Well all know that paywalls suck, especially when ALL the content is there. But maybe a selection of 4-8 stories, in an abbreviated form can be accessed? Perhaps the ones the various media outlets promote on social media. Why? It looks like a fair compromise and a 'meeting in the middle'. The rest can be paywalled if one enters from any other place other than a social media channel. Just a thought.

    1. matjaggard

      Agreed, newspapers have signed their own death warrant. So little digital innovation that it's painful, either move it all online and shove a million ads on it, or put absolutely everything behind a paywall and still shove ads on it.

      That being said, there is still a problem that needs to be fixed and I think lawmakers should get involved in fixing it.

      1. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

        Can a newspaper that need printing, with added ink and paper, distribution and newsagent costs, ever compete with a competitor that runs a billion articles from a server in the basement that pays a fraction of the council tax? Surprisingly, the most efficient and effective option won the majority of the business.

        Arguably their competitors hsve been cheeky ****ers with their user data though.

        But the Internet changed the game. People no longer had to buy paper to find out the news. They could socialise and read free Internet sites instead. Free is more popular than "not free and not convenient". Internet readership figures have grown and newspaper sales have died. Fewer eyeballs and less power. A random dude posting from his basement is quite often more honest and accurate about local matters than a press with commercial agendas to grind (but also dies give a voice to all kinds of cranks).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yes they can compete...

          Newspapers like The Economist, FT, Time and Spectator will be able to compete. They offer extremely hight quality journalism targeted at professional people willing to pay for the content.

          Tabloid entertainment stuff? I would argue that never classified as "news" anyway. I don't see that "Rockstar Ate my Hamster" is any different to a Facebook feed.

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Yes they can compete...

            "Newspapers like The Economist, FT, Time and Spectator... offer extremely hight quality journalism..."

            Other opinions are available. YMMV.

        2. TRT Silver badge

          I've always said that the internet will never replace newsprint...

          I mean, have you ever tried swatting a fly with a 24" monitor?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: I've always said that the internet will never replace newsprint...

            "I mean, have you ever tried swatting a fly with a 24" monitor?"

            No need. The Whippets keep the house fly-free :-)

        3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Price is only one part of the value proposition. There are still many specialised publications out there that are surviving because they provide articles that go beyond the headline and strapline.

      2. nijam Silver badge

        > ... I think lawmakers should get involved in fixing it

        Political intervention in news reporting... what could possibly go wrong?

  5. Red Ted Silver badge
    Happy

    News Media Bargaining Code

    This will be the interesting one to watch, especially after the threats from G and FB came to very little.

    I wonder which countries will be next in having a backbone and stand up to them.

    I fully expect the UK government to be at the bottom of that list.

    1. matjaggard

      Re: News Media Bargaining Code

      Sadly that's the kind of thing that's just not going to happen in single viable party politics.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: News Media Bargaining Code

      Actually, the threats got the legislation watered down quite a lot.

      The interesting question to me is: "Who decides which newspapers get the Google/Facebook money". No one seems to talk about that.

    3. schultzter

      Re: News Media Bargaining Code

      Ha!

      FB got exactly what they wanted and made a token contribution to their hand picked winners.

      G didn't send a penny down under, it all went to the shareholders in NYC. In exchange G is hosting the content so yet another way for them to slurp your data - without you even visiting a G domain!

  6. vtcodger Silver badge

    Lots of reasons to drop the newspaper subsciption

    True story. We subscribed to the local newspaper for the local news. Then, about 15 years ago, they switched to a tabloid format -- presumably to save money on newsprint. Unfortunately, the dogs couldn't adjust to the new smaller page format and sometimes pooped next to the newspaper. We got tired of cleaning up after them, dropped the newspaper subscription and used the money to buy puppy pads which are quite a lot bigger than newspapers.

    Chalk it up to failure to understand customer needs.

  7. DS999 Silver badge

    First they lost classified ads

    And that took them from profitable to neutral. Then they lost readership, as people who subscribed more for "news" in general than local news could get that news from other sources.

    I used to skim through a couple local papers when I was living with my parents, when I grew up and moved out on my own I didn't think it was worth it for something I only spent about 20-30 minutes a day looking at. I watched network news, CNN and later the internet, and didn't really miss local news, though now I have an app from the local paper I spend about a couple minutes a day looking at to see if anything is happening in my city/state I should care about.

    I wouldn't put all the blame on Google, but they certainly haven't helped.

  8. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Flame

    GOOD RIDDANCE

    Ugh. My local paper is more sensational than The Sun. This is the Orlando Sentinel.

    Fortunately they recently got bought by some vulture capital, who have fired all the employees (I can't say journalists) and are selling the bones.

    They were worse than AOL. Every other day I'd have a wet mound of paper pulp in my yard, despite never buying a subscription, and despite calling them over 40 times in 10-15 years.

    I'm SOOOOOO glad they're going to be gone soon.

    Icon for how they should be flame-broiled. I hope none of their ex-employees find a job better than McDonald's.

  9. HildyJ Silver badge
    Boffin

    Report commissioned by Journalism.org

    Daily and Sunday newspaper subscriptions peaked in 1990, 8 years before Google was formed. While this was the year that Berners-Lee created the WorldWideWeb browser it's impact was still far in the future

    What 1990 does coincide with is the Gulf War and CNN's rise to prominence. Major networks beefed up their news operations and, as the war concluded, started running more human interest segments along with the hard news. Eventually other types of news shows and channels developed. Newspapers found their readership transferring to TV watchership and advertisers followed.

  10. jake Silver badge

    For several decades ...

    ... I had a subscription to 3 newspapers (San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, WSJ). They took up my morning coffee time. I read them for the news, and quite frankly I don't remember any advertising as it was irrelevant to my needs.

    Round about 1995, I dropped the WSJ. I no longer felt it was necessary ... but I kept the two local papers. I dropped the Chronicle a year or so later. And finally, in late 1998 I dropped the Mercury. Two local TV news stations took up the load for local stuff, and TehIntraWebTubes kept me up to date on World and Business news. All three papers called and tried to get me to resubscribe over the next several years, but as I always said, why on earth would I want to read yesterday's news today, on dead trees, when I had already read it yesterday online ... or watched it happen on a live TV broadcast.

    And that's pretty much where I am today. Two local news channels on TV (KTVU and KGO ... although KGO is becoming un-interesting (to me), focusing more on touchy-feely human interest stories than actual news, and so usually gets turned off), and the rest online.

    One thing is still consistent with the old three-papers-per-day habit ... I still don't remember any of the advertising. On the TV, I fast-forward through commercials (deferred viewing), and online, I'm a hard-core add blocker. As for alphagoo ... I drop all their IP space on the floor. They have nothing I need or want to see anywhere in their space. (Although I'll admit to eyeballing YouTube occasionally through an anonymizing VPN).

  11. Kev99

    The study apparently ignored a couple other reasons. The "electronic" generation doesn't want to have anything to do with anything they can't get on their cellphones. They claim to be "too busy" to sit back and actually read something on paper. And frankly, I think they're too damned lazy and cheap to buy a paper or magazine.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      I prefer to buy a physical paper every day. Mainly for the simple reason that flicking through the paper you will find articles that otherwise you would never read online.

      If you don’t look beyond the echo chamber of just hearing news that matches your world view how will you ever learn or challenge your own opinions.

      I.e in the paper yesterday (haven’t been out to get the paper this morning yet) there is an article that jays aren’t fooled by sleight of hand tricks that fool humans. I would never have known about this without the paper telling me.

      1. matjaggard

        The echo chamber has always been a problem, unless you took several papers with differing views, which almost nobody did. The extra articles are great and I read BBC The Times and The Grauniad to avoid echo chamber. I avoid The Sunday Times though because too often I get into a good article before the hate starts.

        1. stungebag

          Echo chamber - bad

          Don't know why you were downvoted because what you say is right, and the world would be a better place if more people made an effort to avoid their own echo chamber.

          I read the print versions of The Guardian and The Sunday Times. Both infuriate me at times (more often in comment pieces than news) but much is informative or entertaining and I remind myself why I still buy both. It's important in a democracy to know what more than one side of an argument is saying, and that's been lost for many people (probably before Internet came into being).

          In terms of quality content both of my papers are eclipsed by my online subscription to the the New York Times, which gives a detailed, well-informed view from outside the UK and which, if you catch a special offer, is only £2 a month.

          1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

            Re: Echo chamber - bad

            Dunno how you stand the Grauniad. I tried the same idea, but the ludicrous slant, as well as the big gaps in coverage of unsympathetic news infuriated me too much.

    2. nijam Silver badge

      > ...I think they're too damned ... cheap to buy a paper

      After having spent X hundred quid on a phone?

  12. Maximus Delfango

    The media deserves to fail

    Most media sites* are 100% click bait and most journalists are now badly educated gobby narcissists, writing endless identical rotten articles in how outraged they and their equally vacuous friends are about something utterly inconsequential. And the rare times they’re not doing this? Then it’s the “this week we love” advertorials all the way down. There’s precious little news now, everything comes from Twitter and TikTok, and they all deserve to fail.

    (* this site is one of the few honourable exceptions. I’d subscribe if you let me).

  13. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Coat

    Rupert Murdoch has a different opinion.

    1. jake Silver badge

      sanmigueelbeer: "Rupert Murdoch has a different opinion."

      Internet-at-large: "Who?"

    2. Steve K Silver badge

      Murdoch

      Mr. Murdoch has his finger in many pies across the old and new media spectrum

  14. Ivan Headache

    My local paper comes out once a week

    It’s website is there every day. Some days they update it with a poorly written piece with lots of Twitter screenshots about something of minor interest in a neighbouring borough.

    The stories are rarely topical. Today there was a story about dangerous things in your car which could get you into trouble.

    There was an advert for a wonderful miniature air conditioner that could cool my whole house in thirty minutes and an amazing telescope that turns my phone into a sniperscope. There was also an interesting piece about the benefits of using vinegar in my garden, sticking roses into potatoes, something about using WD40 in my toilet and endless stories about things that are taking the UK by storm.

    Thankfully the print edition doesn’t have those. It rarely has proper news either.

    .

    It does have useful local ads though.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I’m up for it

    As long as it hurts the Dirty Digger!

  16. Potemkine! Silver badge

    you could freely observe the left-right split on an issue by visiting the websites of The Telegraph and The Guardian, now you have to pay, at least in the case of the former.

    What else could you expect from a right-leaning media? :-P

  17. MJI Silver badge

    I used to have a Sunday paper

    But then the quality went down the toilet, became a piece of sensational bullshit.

    Change of owners.

    Not bought a paper in over a decade.

  18. schultzter

    FAIL - News Media Bargaining Code

    FB got exactly what they wanted.

    G for exactly what they wanted.

    And for both it was legitimised and enshrined in law.

  19. Martin an gof Silver badge

    I'm probably being thick...

    ...but this doesn't seem to add up to me:

    According to the Google commissioned report, between 2003 and 2019, the total advertising spend grew from €32.3bn to €112.2bn. During this period, the shares held by newspapers more than halved, falling to €10.8bn from €32.8bn.

    If "total advertising spend" was €32.3bn in 2003, then the share "held by newspapers" cannot possibly have been €32.8bn.

    I mean, even if those figures were reversed, I'd find it hard to believe that TV & radio (as the next biggest players) shared such a small proportion...

    M.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I'm probably being thick...

      Maybe the 32.8 figure is the peak, which occurred somewhere between 2003 and 2019? So at some point when the total was higher?

      Or, of course, it could just be some sort of error.

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