Business

Google Plays Hardball With Spanish Newspaper Association

An effort by Spain's main newspaper trade group to force Google to pay for the content it aggregates was meant to help buoy publishers struggling to turn traffic into profits. But it may have backfired, as Google shut down Google News in Spain on Tuesday.

An effort by Spain’s main newspaper trade group to force Google to pay for the content it aggregates was meant to help buoy publishers struggling to turn traffic into profits. But it may have backfired, as Google shut down Google News in Spain on Tuesday.

There’s no better way to put this: Spain’s largest newspaper association is in a bit of a pickle.

And that pickle starts and ends with Google News, a service that could best be described as a “frenemy” of the newspaper industry. It’s a service that no longer exists in Spain; it was taken down Tuesday after Google found a new law untenable.

And that’s causing some big headaches for the Association of Editors of Spanish Dailies (AEDE). More details:

A new law: Recently, AEDE lobbied the Spanish government for a new law that required Google to pay for every snippet of content the company published on Google News. This has been tried in other countries, but the difference in Spain is that the law requires content be charged for by the media outlets, making it essentially impossible for Google to avoid making payments to publishers. The law, passed in November, goes into effect January 1 [PDF].

Taking their ball and going home: In response to the law, Google announced that it would shut down Google News in Spain because the law would make it too expensive to continue operating. In a blog post, Google News head Richard Gingras emphasized that he realized the site created issues for the news industry, but the law’s heavy-handed approach is not the solution. “This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not,” Gingras wrote. “As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable.” The company followed through on its threat Tuesday, replacing the site with a support page.

A call for intervention: That turn of events wasn’t exactly welcomed by AEDE, which asked the Spanish government to intervene in an effort to keep the service online. “Given the dominant position of Google (which in Spain controls almost all of the searches in the market and is an authentic gateway to the Internet), AEDE requires the intervention of Spanish and community authorities, and competition authorities, to effectively protect the rights of citizens and companies,” the group said in a statement translated by The Spain Report. The group says that it’s been willing to negotiate with Google, but suggests that the company “has not taken a neutral stance” in negotiations.

One question, however, is how effective this law will be in the long run. The New York Times notes that social media, not aggregators, are increasingly driving most of the shares, making the decade-old Google News much less relevant now than it was just a few years ago.

(iStock Editorial/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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