For what seems the infinitiest time, another media industry honcho has said something which makes you wonder about his sanity. APN News & Media chief executive Brendan Hopkins said the following recently:
“To use an analogy, I see search engines as breaking into our homes, itemising the contents, walking out and listing everything for everyone to see. And they get money out of that process.”
Really? And when Jack Valenti told Congress, “I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone,” that didn’t turn out to be a bit over the top and perhaps even, dare I say it, completely wrong?
If search engines are showing the table of contents of news sites, then aren’t they driving more traffic to the site? Isn’t Google News essentially giving the New York Times and other media sites free advertising? You can’t read the whole article on Google – you have to go to the news site. How is that in any way equated to theft? For that matter, how does one steal a good which is intangible and effectively infinite anyway?
When the media companies get a little pinch of economic hard times, they claim that people are stealing from them, that the world will come to an end if they don’t get paid what they want (rather than what the market will bear), etc. And every time throughout history, they’ve been proven wrong. Sheet music didn’t kill singing. Piano rolls didn’t destroy piano bars. Radio didn’t raid the coffers of the record companies. VCRs did not cause the complete collapse of the movie industry. MP3 players have still, after 10 years, failed to completely annihilate the recording industry, despite the music executives best efforts to jump on a sword or two. In most cases, the new technology has actually been a boon for the existing industry eventually. Stop thinking that your business involves one particular format, and think about what people actually want to buy. People don’t want records or CDs; they want music. People don’t want newspapers or magazines; they want information and pictures. Give your customers what they want in a convenient form they want, and your industry will boom. Prevent them from accessing your media and you’ll soon find you have very little media left to sell. People will read the news online, just maybe not from your company, if you make it too hard to do. It’s possible you’re just making buggy whips and everyone has moved to cars.
This is all in the context of folks like Rupert Murdoch saying he’s going to lock up his news sites behind pay walls, so that people must pay to read his NY Post articles. Hmmm… The NY Times actually took down their pay wall a while back. Their presence online suddenly became much larger, they got more traffic and I’d assume higher advertising revenue. It must be said that the Times is actually talking about rebuilding their pay wall; I’m sure it will be much more successful the second time around. /snark