It’s time for Newspapers to put out, or shut up about Google

Another day, and another breakout among newspaper publishers of lets blame Google for our ills. Today’s round comes from the United Kingdom, where Trinity Mirror CEO Sly Bailey, with the support of the Guardian Media Group’s CEO Carolyn McCall attacked Google at a UK Government inquiry into the future of media, saying that “That’s our copyright, and they don’t spend a penny on journalism at all—they just make money from ours.”

Lets put aside for a minute that Google ads appear on the Guardian website, and that the only content Google republishes in full is paid for, licensed content from AP (they do indeed “pay” for journalism.) Facts rarely get in the way of a good Google bash, and the call is always the same: Google steals from us, Google is a parasite, Google should pay for linking to our content. It’s a line I should note that has already been used by newspaper publishers in the United States, and I’ve heard the same thing from a former newspaper editor in Australia.

So lets just pretend for a minute that Google really does steal content from newspapers. I emphasize the pretend, because it’s not true, but hear me out.

If the newspapers truly believe that Google is stealing, then surely they should prevent it happening? If you’re being robbed in the street and you have the means to defend yourself, you’re going to defend yourself, right?

Here’s where it’s time for newspapers to put out, or shut up about Google, because they themselves have the power now to act, and it’s remarkably very simple. If you’re ever speaking at a debate or function where newspapers are attacking Google, take note of the next three lines:

Open up the sites Robots.txt file. It’s a text file, and needs no fancy editor.
Insert the line: User-agent: * Disallow: /
Save the file back to the server.

That’s it. Any newspaper site with this line implemented in their robots.txt file will be completely unindexed from all major search engines, including Google.

That wasn’t so hard, was it? I bet given 5 minutes I could teach my 6 year old son to do that.

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So why isn’t the newspaper industry taking action and taking themselves out of a search engine they themselves claim is stealing from them?

That would be a case of the newspapers wanting to have their cake and eat it too. Newspapers won’t admit it, but they desperately want the traffic Google provides them, and I can’t blame them for that. But this idea that Google should pay for the privilege of sending them traffic is obscene in any sense of the word.

I sincerely hope that newspapers who believe that Google is stealing from them remove themselves from Google’s index. Only then they might discover that instead of stealing from them, Google is in many cases is helping them make the switch from print to online only. If they don’t prove that, at least there can be no more suggestions that Google is stealing from them. It’s really very simple, and doesn’t need Government intervention to work.

To those newspapers that won’t take themselves out of Google’s index but continue to blame Google for their ills: I hope every person who reads this calls you out for the stupidity and hypocrisy of your argument.