John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Google to World Association of Newspapers: Sure Your Acronym’s Not ‘WAAAGH!’?

Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond says the company’s proposed search advertising partnership with Yahoo won’t increase Google’s share of search traffic. But no one appears to be taking him at his word.

The World Association of Newspapers said Monday that it opposes the deal, adding its name to a growing list of critics that now includes not just Microsoft, but the Association of National Advertisers and European Union as well. Late Monday, WAN, which represents 76 national newspaper associations and more than 18,000 publications on five continents, issued a statement condemning the Google-Yahoo deal as disastrous for the newspaper industry. Surprisingly hostile in tone, it argues that the proposed advertising alliance between Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) will weaken competition in the online advertising space and solidify Google’s dominance in search at a time when the company is expanding its own content businesses:

The upshot is that the deal will force newspapers to become even more dependent on Google than they are today. By handing Google control of up to 90 percent of paid search and content advertising, Google will exert tremendous power over both newspapers’ ability to reach readers and their ability to generate online advertising revenue. Perhaps never in the history of newspaper publishing has a single, commercial entity threatened to exert this much control over the destiny of the press.

It is particularly worrisome that this consolidation of power is occurring at the same time that Google increasingly takes positions that are adverse to newspapers and other content creators. Google already owns several content sites that directly compete with content developed by newspapers and other creators–often by simply copying others’ content without authorization. Usually, Google alone profits from this misappropriation. Take, for example, the case of Google News, which a Google senior executive recently admitted drives $100 million in advertising revenue to Google itself yet provides nothing–not a penny–to the newspaper companies whose works appear on those pages.

Clearly, newspapers have quite a few axes to grind with Google, and WAN appears intent on grinding them all at once. That said, Google’s partnership with Yahoo would be limited to the United States and Canada, so the protestations of a group of international newspapers may not carry as much weight with the regulators reviewing the deal as WAN would like. Especially after the U.S.-based Newspaper Association of America so quickly distanced itself from them. Said NAA CEO John F. Sturm, “While NAA is a member of the World Association of Newspapers, I would like to clarify that the NAA Board of Directors has taken no position on the proposed advertising partnership between Google and Yahoo.”