Google’s head of news: Newspapers are the new Yahoo



Google has a somewhat tense relationship with the traditional newspaper industry, since publishers like News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch still believe it is depriving them of revenue by “stealing” their content and aggregating it at Google News. So you might think that Google’s head of news products, Richard Gingras, would try to smooth over any ruffled feathers when talking about the future of news. He did the opposite in a recent talk at Harvard, however — comparing newspapers to old-fashioned internet portals like Yahoo, and suggesting that unless media companies can adapt to the Web rather than fighting it, they are likely doomed.

We weren’t at the Gingras event, which was hosted by the Nieman Foundation, but Matt Stempeck of MIT’s Center for Civic Media was there, and he live-blogged the entire thing on the Center’s website (his original notes are posted here). Although these are not direct quotes, we’ve taken the liberty of highlighting some of the comments that Gingras made on a number of important topics, from the tradeoff inherent in paywalls to the distraction of iPad apps and the dangers of innovating too slowly.

On how newspapers got to where they are:

We look back at the 40 golden years of newspaper profitability as if things had been structured that way forever. But these four decades were triggered by an earlier media disruption: television. The rise of television advertising caused a contraction in the newspaper business, where major metropolitan markets went from supporting 4-5 newspapers to 1-2 papers. The limited number of remaining companies allowed monopolitistic pricing. This wealth was created by disruption, and what disruption gives, it taketh away.

Gingras says that the previous dominance that newspapers enjoyed was due primarily to geography, and to some degree demographic targeting. Now, thanks to the Web, he says we are seeing “a disaggregation of content flows as well as advertising.” Like media theorist Clay Shirky, the Google executive argues that one of the big problems for newspapers is that they always depended on “cross-subsidization” of topics — so the classified ads and the lifestyle section paid for the foreign reporting. Now, he says “we have blogs focusing on these niches alone, with a much keener sense of commercialization.”

On whether journalism is better or worse:

The pace of technological change will not abate, and to think of our current time as a transition between two eras, rather than a continuum of change, is a mistake. There has been tremendous disruption in journalism, but there are upsides: everyone has a printing press, there are no gatekeepers [or at least new gatekeepers], and journalism can and will be better than in the past.

On the iPad as the savior of journalism:

[The iPad is] a fatal distraction for media companies. Too many publishers looked at the tablet as the road home to their magazine format, subscription model, and expensive full-page ads. The format of a single device does not change the fundamental ecosystem underneath it, and this shiny tablet has taken media companies’ eyes off of the ball.

Jason Pontin, publisher of MIT’s Technology Review, made a similar point in a recent post in which he described how unsatisfying the magazine’s apps were, and how he is giving up the “walled garden” approach and moving towards a Web-native model.

On how newspapers are like the old Web portals:

Gingras doesn’t believe the vertical model of a newspaper makes sense going forward. He compares the metropolitan newspapers’ all-things to all-people product to content portals for specific communities. This strategy doesn’t make sense given the possibilities. Yahoo!’s initial success was as a portal. But portals have disappeared online as consumers have learned to navigate the web on their own and found the niche sites they love.

On whether paywalls are the answer:

Some publishers say, “They bought it before, they’ll buy it again,” or “We need to get people back into the habit of paying for news.” But consumers never did pay the true costs. The Wall Street Journal pulls their paywall off because it publishes information that is perceived to have high value and is written for business audiences, whose subscriptions are paid for by their employers. News companies must disambiguate their content and business models and devolve from the generalist approach, which is hemmoraging both readers and revenue.

The whole interview is worth reading, because Gingras doesn’t just criticize newspapers and other traditional media for being old and slow — he has some concrete tips for how they can benefit from the disruption the Web has caused, including a suggestion that newspapers consider building on a single story or topic page, Wikipedia-style, instead of just publishing story after story on a subject with different URLs and different information (he provided some other thoughts at a recent Google-sponsored journalism event).

For Gingras, the bottom line is that if newspapers can’t adapt to changing market conditions and business models, they will become classic victims of author Clay Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma.” As he put it:

When the net blossomed in the 90′s, why didn’t newspapers respond? Because classified ads were a cash-cow and CEOs were responsible to Wall Street, so few had the courage to see Craigslist as a threat and blow up their cash-cow. And that is the Innovator’s Dilemma. The giants won’t eat their young. The Ben Huh’s have the advantage of a very fresh slate.

Note: We’ll be discussing these kinds of media issues and more at paidContent 2012: At The Crossroads on May 23 in New York City. Register today.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Flickr users Zarko Drincic and dutchmassive


Get stories like this on the Yahoo app and discover more every day.
Download it now.
  • Shell: Fire forces closure of key oil pipeline in Nigeria Associated Press - 5 minutes ago

    A fire has forced the closure of a key oil pipeline in Nigeria, Shell said Tuesday, amid ongoing challenges including militant attacks that are losing oil multinationals billions of dollars in what used ... … More »

  • Germany blocks WhatsApp data transfers to Facebook AFP - 6 minutes ago

    German data protection authorities on Tuesday said they had blocked Facebook from collecting subscriber data from its subsidiary WhatsApp, citing privacy concerns. Facebook and WhatsApp promised in the ... … More »

  • Ride-hailing company Careem says profitability in sight Reuters - 7 minutes ago

    Ride-hailing service Careem is targeting profitability next year or in 2018 and is in talks with potential investors about its latest fundraising plans, co-founder Mudassir Sheikha told Reuters on Tuesday. The company, which has a larger market … More »

  • Tok Belagak arrested over gold investment scam New Straits Times - 16 minutes ago

    KUALA LUMPUR: Police yesterday arrested the chairman of a gold trading company for allegedly scamming an investor of more than RM80,000 in 2014. Kajang district police chief Assistant Commissioner Othman Nanyan said the 51-year-old man, known by … More »

  • U.S. stocks firm after debate but oil a drag
    U.S. stocks firm after debate but oil a drag Reuters - 18 minutes ago

    By Richard Leong NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stock prices rose on Tuesday following the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but losses in the oil market and anxiety about the fortune ... … More »

  • How a Part-Time Actor Got Lead Role at $2.6 Billion Stock Fund Bloomberg - 30 minutes ago

    Sawakami saw a spark and later offered him a job. “He’s a rascal,” Sawakami said in an interview, using an affectionate Japanese term that parents reserve for headstrong children. Kusakari is a rare example of a person in Japan who diverged from a … More »

  • Iran dims hopes for deal on output freeze this week
    Iran dims hopes for deal on output freeze this week Associated Press - 40 minutes ago

    Iran played down hopes Tuesday that a deal to limit oil production will emerge this week in a meeting in Algeria, prompting big falls in oil prices. Speaking in Algiers at a meeting of oil producing countries, ... … More »

  • Swiss lawmakers approve step towards burqa ban
    Swiss lawmakers approve step towards burqa ban AFP News - 42 minutes ago

    Switzerland's lower house on Tuesday narrowly approved a draft bill on a nationwide burqa ban, the ATS news agency reported, but the measure remains far from coming into force. The proposal by lawmaker Walter Wobmann of the populist right-wing … More »

  • Facebook to appeal German order on WhatsApp data
    Facebook to appeal German order on WhatsApp data Reuters - 44 minutes ago

    Facebook (FB.O) said it would appeal against an order by a German privacy regulator on Tuesday to stop collecting and storing data of German users of its messaging app WhatsApp and to delete all data that has already been forwarded to it. The … More »

  • Samsung recovers around 60 percent of recalled Note 7s in South Korea, U.S., Europe
    Samsung recovers around 60 percent of recalled Note 7s in South Korea, U.S., Europe Reuters - 48 minutes ago

    Samsung Electronics Co said on Tuesday it has got back around 60 percent of recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones sold in South Korea, the United States and Europe, suggesting it is making progress in its attempts to recover from the crisis. In a … More »

  • Saudis, Iran dash hopes for OPEC oil deal in Algeria
    Saudis, Iran dash hopes for OPEC oil deal in Algeria Reuters - 49 minutes ago

    Saudi Arabia and Iran on Tuesday dashed hopes that OPEC oil producers could clinch an output-limiting deal in Algeria this week as sources said the group and non-member Russia were still trying to bridge differences between the kingdom and Tehran. … More »

  • Putin praises farmers for Russia's strong grain harvest
    Putin praises farmers for Russia's strong grain harvest Associated Press - 52 minutes ago

    President Vladimir Putin has praised farmers for making Russia's grain harvest this year the highest in post-Soviet times. Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev reported to Putin on Tuesday that this ... … More »

  • Grain mixed, livestock mixed Associated Press - 52 minutes ago

    Grain futures were mixed Tuesday in early trading on the Chicago Board of Trade. Wheat for December delivery was .25 cent lower at $3.9560 a bushel; December corn was .50 cent higher at $3.2960 bushel; ... … More »

  • Telefonica aims to list mobile firm O2 in London this year - sources
    Telefonica aims to list mobile firm O2 in London this year - sources Reuters - 52 minutes ago

    Spain's Telefonica (TEF.MC) is looking to list about 30 percent of its British mobile unit O2 in what would be one of the biggest initial public offerings (IPOs) on the London market this year, sources told Reuters. Europe's biggest telecom group … More »

  • Turkey sacks 87 spy agency staff over failed coup
    Turkey sacks 87 spy agency staff over failed coup AFP News - 53 minutes ago

    Turkey has dismissed 87 staff from its spy agency over alleged links to the failed July 15 coup, state media said Tuesday, in the first purge of one of the country's most powerful institutions. The National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) has … More »

  • One of the world’s biggest venture capital companies has shut down its Israeli fund
    One of the world’s biggest venture capital companies has shut down its Israeli fund Business Insider - 55 minutes ago

    REUTER/ Nir Elias Tel Aviv. Sequoia, a multibillion-dollar … Continued The post One of the world’s biggest venture capital companies has shut down its Israeli fund appeared first on Business Insider. … More »

  • US stocks open higher, led by tech and consumer companies
    US stocks open higher, led by tech and consumer companies Associated Press - 1 hour 3 minutes ago

    U.S. stocks are rising in Tuesday morning trading as technology and consumer companies move higher. Energy companies are falling as the price of oil returns some of Monday's gains. Bond prices continue ... … More »

  • Michigan inmates get job training in 'vocational village'
    Michigan inmates get job training in 'vocational village' Associated Press - 1 hour 4 minutes ago

    Few states have been more aggressive in releasing inmates and diverting offenders than Michigan, where a decade ago, one out of every 200 people was in prison, and penal costs were beginning to crowd out ... … More »

  • Clinton-fuelled stocks rally slips on oil
    Clinton-fuelled stocks rally slips on oil AFP News - 1 hour 4 minutes ago

    A stocks rally triggered by Hillary Clinton's upbeat performance in the first US presidential debate over Republican rival Donald Trump slid away Tuesday on a dim outlook for an oil deal. The London stock market shed 0.7 percent, Frankfurt was down … More »

  • 21 objects that are perfectly designed and can’t be improved any further
    21 objects that are perfectly designed and can’t be improved any further Business Insider - 1 hour 13 minutes ago

    Skye Gould/Tech Insider Some things are so timeless, recognizable, … Continued The post 21 objects that are perfectly designed and can’t be improved any further appeared first on Business Insider. … More »

  • US stocks rise on strong consumer confidence data AFP - 1 hour 14 minutes ago

    A report showing strong consumer confidence in September helped boost US stocks into positive territory early Tuesday, overcoming initial weakness on lower oil prices. US consumer confidence jumped to ... … More »

  • Deutsche Boerse Asia plans sidelined by LSE merger effort
    Deutsche Boerse Asia plans sidelined by LSE merger effort Reuters - 1 hour 19 minutes ago

    Deutsche Boerse's (DB1Gn.DE) expansion plans in Asia have been moved to a side track as the German exchange operator focuses on its $27 billion merger with the London Stock Exchange (LSE.L), three sources familiar with the situation said. China's … More »

  • Chinese coal accident 'kills 12, traps 8'
    Chinese coal accident 'kills 12, traps 8' AFP News - 1 hour 20 minutes ago

    The mine was operated by Linli Coal Mining company in the city of Shizuishan, the official Xinhua news agency reported. In a report late Tuesday it said 12 bodies had been recovered from the mineshaft, with eight people still trapped. … More »

  • Wall Street propped up by tech stocks
    Wall Street propped up by tech stocks Reuters - 1 hour 26 minutes ago

    Wall Street was higher for the first time in three days on Tuesday as a rise in technology stocks helped offset losses in energy shares. Google parent Alphabet rose 0.7 percent after JPMorgan raised its price target on the stock, driving the S&P … More »

  • Ask Brianna: Will I ever be able to afford a house?
    Ask Brianna: Will I ever be able to afford a house? Associated Press - 1 hour 27 minutes ago

    "Ask Brianna" is a Q&A column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I'm here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world ... … More »

Recent Quotes
Symbol Price Change % Chg 
Your most recently viewed tickers will automatically show up here if you type a ticker in the "Enter symbol/company" at the bottom of this module.
You need to enable your browser cookies to view your most recent quotes.
to view quotes in your portfolios.


  • Most Actives
    Most Actives
    NamePriceChange% Chg
  • % Gainers
    % Gainers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
  • % Losers
    % Losers
    NamePriceChange% Chg

Market Data

  • Currencies
    NamePriceChange% Chg
  • Commodities
    NamePriceChange% Chg
  • Bonds
    TreasuryYield (%)Yield Change