Google and the new Spanish Inquisition

Written by on December 12, 2014 in News with 1 Comment

One of the big issues with anything disruptive is that if and when it becomes mainstream it’s often too late for regulators to apply controls, and when they try to all hell breaks loose.

Google, the search engine specialist, and perennial disruptor of anything it takes its mind to, is finding that years after it has established a new business it is getting rapped over the knuckles. And like any scolded child it is throwing its toys out of the pram/stroller in a show of defiance. But let me come back to this shortly.

It should be no surprise to anyone, especially Google, that its monumental success in converting plain old search into a multi-zillion dollar enterprise based on advertising and clicks revenues has made others envious, and even vindictive.

Of course, it’s a free market that most of us live in so if anybody wants to compete with Google head on they can – its just that they have such a head start and so much capital to play with that any would be competitor is either doomed to failure or gets swallowed up by the very monster it is trying to fight.

Despite what anyone might think of Google, it does spend an inordinate amount on research to make things better for us mere mortals, and if things don’t work out they have no problem dumping the idea and moving on to some thing new.

One thing it has been doing for years, at no charge, is collating news from sources all around the world and presenting it in a very concise, easy to read format. The process, known as curation, involves searching the web for relevant news, extracting a small part of the article (usually the opening sentence or paragraph) and its URL, and publishing to its news website. Readers of the news service can scan through these snippets and click to go to the main story.

This has been an accepted practice for eons as long as the majority of the story is not republished without credit or payment to the owner. It’s a win-win for the authors, publishers and the news service and is generally self-regulating because each click can be traced back to the source and abuse can be quickly dealt with.

With that background let me get back to main story. Authorities in cash-strapped Spain have jumped to the defense of publishers (you know, the ones that help or hinder governments and influence voters), to extract money from Google’s news service and anybody else that has the audacity to curate Spanish content. Spain’s new legislation, supposedly aimed at protecting local publishers, requires the search company to pay for using the publishers’ content – any part of it no matter how small.

Needless to say, this new so-called ‘Google Tax’ has incensed Google and it has closed down Google News in Spain and removed Spanish media outlet links from the service altogether. So if you want to know what’s happening in Spain don’t go to Google News. In fact, don’t bother looking anywhere but on the publishers’ own sites (if you can find them and if you are willing to pay), because pay walls will no doubt be the next thing to pop up.

Of course publishers and content owners have the right to earn income but it is not Google’s or the Internet’s fault in changing the way people want to access news. Publishers were very slow to respond to the digital demand and now seek refuge behind governments that apparently have no idea what repercussions they may spark.

This sort of kneejerk legislation achieves nothing but to aggravate and stifle what has become normal practice for most of the population – reading news on their smartphones and tablets. Many already subscribe to their favorite publications because it is cheaper and easier than buying newspapers. Now the publishers will no longer have the benefit of a free service that helps pull readers to their site. Most other businesses pay dearly for this ‘privilege’ from Google.

We should probably not be surprised that this archaic and inhibiting legislation is coming from Spain, after all, wasn’t it previously famous for the Spanish Inquisition?

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About the Author

About the Author: Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of DisruptiveViews. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide. .


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