News is a ubiquitous free and fee-based commodity on the web. There’s always a lot of it out there, with many duplicate and similar versions of the same story doing the rounds giving the appearance of even more news than there really is, contrasting with those more obscure hard-to-find items that are occasionally required.
This is also coupled with the near-impossibility for the poor journalist to enjoy a nice scoop for any length of time before rivals find out and jump on the same story.
It can seem quite overwhelming, trying to keep up with your areas of interest. Some people swear by Twitter for keeping up to speed (some just swear at it), others prefer in-depth reporting, staying loyal to the premium sources such as the FT or The Economist. Very many do both using social media for alerting and specific sources for in-depth.
Google has decided that its news service can do better and has announced its Digital News Initiative which may see Google consider a move to micropayments for access to premium sources that its news search picks up.
From reading some of the reporting: the FT article (you can register for free to access) Ars Technica’s version, The Guardian’s version (no doubt you can find more via a Google News search!), the emphasis is mostly on helping the press “find sustainable models” in order to preserve high quality journalism in this internet-age. Ah, that familiar challenge for all web-based businesses where so much of the content is free.
It’s also interesting to have a development driven from a European perspective, when so much tends to start out in the US and then ripple over to Europe after some time. The Guardian article cautions that, while this European perspective is all very well, the initiative will ultimately need to be adopted by Google in the US too.
We, us, the end-user-news-searchers barely get a mention in all of this. This is partly because Google is focusing on the news industry, having been criticised over the years by newspapers for robbing news sites of direct traffic and being unhelpful for subscription news sites. We come in where Google insists that it will be the consumer who ultimately influences the direction they go as regards payment models. So if we end up having to pay, it’s all our fault. Cynicism aside, anything that introduces more flexible payment models is probably a good thing – I would reckon that being able to access the FT on a pay-as-you-go basis via Google News for instance, could prove a popular option with many.
So, could this signal a move away from a free news service from Google or a move to the best of both: both free and pay-as-you-go to access the premium results? Should the premium news aggregators such as Factiva and LexisNexis also be worried? No doubt they’ll be watching carefully. I think they should be a little concerned as this initiative could, over time, result in a further erosion of their customer-base.
Disruptive to news searching? I hope so, I love a bit of disruption. Especially if it brings with it another choice in how we can search, access and pay for the news.
What do you think? Where do you go to find your news?