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Fri - 22.09.2017

Making Google pay, the Axel Springer way

Making Google pay, the Axel Springer way

Rupert Murdoch is not the only mogul looking to make money from online content - it's just that what with the intense media circus surrounding his rants, not to mention the severity of his accusations (think calling Google and Yahoo out and out thieves on international TV) he's the only one we've really heard about of late.

Led by Matthias Döpfner, Axel Springer, publisher of Europe's biggest daily, Das Bild, and other newspapers across Germany and Eastern Europe, is plotting the numerous ways in which it too can go about monetising its content online.

Christoph Keese, Springer's head of public affairs, said: "The meta-philosophy of free - we should get rid of this philosophy. A highly industrialized world cannot survive on rumours. It needs quality journalism, and that costs money." Döpfner added: "I see no justification, neither democratic nor market-related, for content to be generally free on the Internet. For centuries, people have been willing to pay for things of interest to them."

With this in mind, Springer is set to launch a paid-for iPhone application for Bild, and its quality newspaper Die Welt as of tomorrow - which the chief executive officer assures will include a great deal of free content within both the subscription and micropayment models. Deutsche Telekom, Germany's main telecoms operator, will permit users to be charged via their telephone bills.

Aside from the introduction of iPhone applications, a band wagon many news outlets have been keep to jump on, an interview between Keese and the New York Times confirmed Springer's further plans to generate profit from online content, revealing that a very detailed blueprint of exactly how this will be achieved has already been laid out.

Unlike Murdoch's two step plan of removing all News Corp owned websites from search engine indexes followed by the implementation of proposed paywalls protecting the content of individual websites, Keese sees the future of paid content as a collaborative affair, calling it a "one-click marketplace solution". Keese's system would allow all Springer owned content to still appear in search engine results with the money bit coming in as an internet user clicks to read the article - which is when they would come face to face with a pay wall.

What readers decide to do after that is their decision, but certainly Keese's option seems altogether more rational than Murdoch's: Internet users still get directed to the websites they searched for, whereas Murdoch's solution would mean that users would have to go directly to his websites.

This proposition doesn't go without its own Google dilemma however. Springer has now become embroiled in a debate with the aggregator, which its wants to pay for the use of their article snippets. Recognising its powerful position on the web, Google is resolutely set against doing so, with the company's senior business product manager, Josh Cohen stating: "We have no intention to pay anyone for indexing their content, if publishers don't want us to show their headlines or snippets, they can already opt to take them out."

The crux of the problem lies in the fact removing their contents from Google News is simply not an option for German publishers: In Germany, Google accounts for roughly 80 percent of Internet searches.

As a result, they have armed themselves with legal leverage in order to fight their corner, bringing about a new kind of copyright preventing the secondary use of journalistic content online without express permission. When this will be officially put into place however is not yet clear. The new law has been labelled a backward solution to the problem and even unnecessary by some, including Cohen, who insists that Google abides by current copyright laws.

Keese said that the proposed law was important for German publishers' plans for digital business models however, as said copyright would force businesses reproducing newspaper content online to purchase licenses. A new agency, akin to collecting societies that gather royalties for record labels, composers and artists, would administer the licenses. Although it is not yet clear how much revenue these proposed licenses could stand to bring in, Keese did state that GEMA, the main collecting society for German music copyright owners, raises more than €850 million annually.

That's not to say that the entirety of Springer content will be receiving the barbed wire treatment however, as Keese explained that only "non-commodity journalism", such as specific photos, would carry a price tag, with pay per click options or flat rate packages enabling access to content from a variety of media companies.

Whether this step will turn away readers or bring in the profits the newspaper industry so desperately needs to safe guard its survival will remain to be seen. If one thing is for certain however, it is that News Corp International and Axel Springer will not be alone in their endeavours, as other publishers around the world, including The New York Times Co., which owns the International Herald Tribune, have also said they were also considering charging for online access.

Sources: New York Times, Media Guardian



Helena Humphrey


2009-12-09 16:37

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