Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Okay, So Google Isn't Evil

I just spent 20 minutes reading James Fallows' lengthy piece on Google's efforts to save the news business, and I can buy his argument that Google isn't evil, it's just misunderstood.

But after all those words, I still don't see a lot new coming out of Eric Schmidt & Co. Here's the closest to a solution that Schmidt offers to Fallows:

"In the future model, you’ll have subscriptions to information sources that will have advertisements embedded in them, like a newspaper. You’ll just leave out the print part. I am quite sure that this will happen."
Is this not the same argument that we've been hearing for nearly a decade?

I've concluded that Google's argument boils down to three elements:

* Online ads are getting better, more targeted and more readable
* News sites can do a better job of selling their space (using Google technology, natch)
* Trust us

The one encouraging thing that I gleaned from Fallows' piece is that Google indeed does recognize that its search engine is only as good as the content it delivers. And it's fair to say that the burden of saving the news business shouldn't fall to Google alone. But if Google really wants to help, it needs to think about some business models besides its own.

Which brings me back to the point of this post: When it comes to filling the void of public-service journalism, the nonprofit model offers solutions that would pair neatly with Google's.

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