Google, newspapers, ACAP and moving on

David Drummond, senior vice president and chief legal counsel to Google, knows how to work a crowd.

Presenting in the final session of last week’s World Association of Newspapers (WAN) annual conference, Drummond held up a newspaper – hailing it as the simplest and effective delivery mechanism for news and information that exists.

This went down well with the newspaper industry crowd.

But the delegates were restless and understandably so – Google, represented by Drummond, offered an olive branch, saying that the search firm had not done enough to work with the publishing industry and would seek deeper engagement.

On the counterbalance, Gavin O’Reilly, CEO of Independent News and Media and president of WAN-IFRA, said he regularly discussed issues with Google and met with representatives.

As chief proponent of ACAP – an alternative to robots.txt, the web bots used by Google and other search engines to crawl and index the web, O’Reilly once more called on Google to get involved and expressed concern that the search giant hadn’t already signed up.

But, as only a limited few hands went up in the audience when asked which publishers were already implementing ACAP, this was a back and forth we’d all seen before.

As one questioner neatly put it, there needs to be ‘dates in the diary’ for negotiations between Google and publishers to calm the industry’s troubles on this front. Wheresoever your stance of Google vs newspapers (particularly if you think the versus is unnecessary), for a newspaper group more transparency in industry bodies’ talks and relations with the company certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

Talks behind closed doors with press statements released from either side aren’t helping anyone and Google will continue to be the industry’s most popular scapegoat (rightly or wrongly) until the debate moves on.

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