Stay true to your word, Google

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Stay true to your word, Google

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Google.com is visited one billion times every week and returns searches from 55,000 media organizations in 45 languages, including 530 news providers in Korean.

The company is the leader in the online news industry and is making a tremendous amount of money through personalized advertisements. However, the news sites providing Google with a source of income are not very pleased. Google News is always crowded with viewers while the Web sites of other publications are neglected.

Online news used to be considered the savior that would replace print newspapers. Investments have been made as if online sources would make up for the losses in the print industry. But the outcome has not been satisfactory so far. Companies now lose $1 on print newspapers to make 10 cents online. And Google is criticized for snatching up the market. Using its powerful search technology, key news articles on sites around the world are brought directly to Google.

News sites are resisting the current trend because the content carefully developed by media companies is routed to Google, which gets the hits and thus the advertisement revenue. It has become a gigantic gateway for news. With so many visitors, the company is attracting advertisements left and right. As a result, it has become a public enemy. And the world is readying to take action. In Europe, governments, including those in France and Germany, are about to fight back.

There are movements to pass bills to require Google to pay fees for pulling in content from news sites. In Brazil, some 150 newspapers decided to end their partnership with Google.

However, media companies cannot be entirely confrontational. They need hits to get money. The problem is that 20 to 40 percent of the clicks come through Google. Ironically, they need to get friendlier with Google in order to make money.

Google’s identity is ambiguous. It can be an enemy and a friend at the same time. To media companies, Google is a “frenemy.”

In Korea, media companies are becoming more vigilant against Google. While Naver, the indigenous search portal, is still at the top, Google is gradually emerging as the center of news. Google’s news search can aggregate most of the content produced in Korea, but there is no fee involved. Naturally, media companies are displeased.

Google needs to emphasize its role as a friend rather than an enemy. A friend would not use news from other sites and feign ignorance. Google’s corporate motto is “Don’t be evil.” It does not make sense to ignore copyright violations when it advocates such a policy. If its coffers are filled by using content from other sites, it has to pay the due fees. This is the way Google can stay true to its word.

* The writer is a new media editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jong-yoon

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