Australian News Corp chief attacks Google, bloggers

John Hartigan, the Chief Executive of News Ltd, the Australian arm of News Corp has joined in with his colleagues in the United States today in bashing Google and bloggers.

In a wide ranging lecture about how News Ltd was better than the rest and how original content has a future, Hatigan’s attack on Google nearly copied the exact same wording as that used by his company colleagues in the Unites States. “The most profitable sites, in fact the only ones making serious money are the sites that aggregate news, like Google and Yahoo” said Hartigan. “They pay nothing for content produced by newspaper journalists but make money by supplying it in easily searchable forms online.” At least he didn’t use the word parasite.

Of course the fact that News Ltd can easily remove their content from Google tomorrow, and that they encourage linking via social sharing buttons on each story may have been missed by Hartigan, but facts should never get in the way of a good story…well, if you’re the head of Australia’s largest tabloid newspaper publisher at least.

Then he went after blogs and independent sites, despite News Ltd itself running a sizable number of blogs (indeed I’m reading the speech notes from Andrew Bolt’s blog)

Almost anyone can start one of these sites, with very little capital, no training or qualifications. Then there are the bloggers. In return for their free content, we pretty much get what we’ve paid for – something of such limited intellectual value as to be barely discernible from massive ignorance.

And just to be clear: News Ltd doesn’t publish blogs…oh wait, not only do they publish blogs, they’ve actually signed up bloggers to write for them.

You know though that the bash is going to be serious when someone starts quoting king luddite Andrew Keen, and Hartigan managed to offer a range of quotes from Keen…oh wait, I thought only bloggers didn’t provide original thought and quoted others extensively.

“Citizen journalists, he says, simply don’t have the resources to bring us reliable news. They lack not only expertise and training but access to decision makers and reliable sources” Hartigan says of Keen, while in the same speech noting on their coverage of the Victorian bushfires was:

Who can forget the images of the fireman sharing his water bottle with the Sam the Koala, perhaps the iconic image of the tragedy? The images that appeared on television around the world carried the water mark not of Seven, Nine or Ten but of heraldsun.com.au.

Except that the image was published online until The Herald Sun picked it up. Double bonus: the picture was taken by a firefighter, not a professional journalist. Citizen journalism at work? Lets ask Hartigan:

The fires were an example of how journalism should directly touch readers and not always remain detached on the sidelines. Alongside traditional reporting from the scene, we had incredible eyewitness accounts from readers, including amazing pics and video.

Hang on, now I’m confused. Hartigan says citizen journalism isn’t worth shit, but then he boasts how The Herald Sun used citizen journalists to supplement its coverage.

I think though the best line was when Hartigan tried to claim that the problem with newspapers in the United States and the UK was circulation, or as Andrew Bolt said, Hartigan noted “that the crashes in circulation seen in the US and Britain have not been seen here.” That may be true in the UK, but it’s not true in the US. Yes, some papers have declined, but the overall trend hasn’t been that great. The real reason newspapers are in trouble in the US and UK is a crash in ADVERTISING, figures easily confirmed by the relevant industry bodies in both countries. The trend started before the recession, and was driven in a large part by online alternatives. But hey, why let facts get in the way.

I’ll repeat what I wrote on June 16: if Hartigan really believes that Google and others are stealing from News Ltd, then take the News Ltd out of Google. It’s one line in a Robots.txt file. If Hartigan refuses to, then he has ZERO credibility on the subject of Google.

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