Traditional media companies should not fear internet search giant Google but work with it to increase online audience and make more money from the web.
That’s according to Rob Jonas, Google’s head of media and publishing partnerships for Europe, who said that the company’s main aim was to help its partners across the world make the most of their own content.
Speaking at the MediaGuardian Changing Media Summit in London this morning, Jonas stressed that publishers could decide which parts of their news is crawled by the search engine. “Premium”, or subscriber-only content, can stay that way while other parts can be indexed.
Since opening up their site to Google News and making content partially free last October, The Financial Times‘s website FT.com saw a 75 per increase in traffic and gained an extra 230,000 registered users, Jonas said.
Asked what Google’s position was on the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP), a tool to give news publishers more control over how search engines access their online content, Jonas was cautious.
He said Google was in talks with the industry and its search competitors about ACAP, which has already been adopted by Times Online, but said that “the general view” within the company was that the existing model was best for “what publishers need to do”.
Responding to a question from Press Gazette on whether some traditional media groups still view Google as the enemy, Jonas said: “The one thing I have learned over the last couple of years is that most of those fears and concerns come from a misunderstanding.
“If we had time to sit down with them and explain what our aims we could talk them through our way of doing things. But as it is we can’t really do that. It’s just a lack of detailed understanding over what we are trying to achieve.”
Jonas argued that the three drivers of the digital revolution in publishing were: increased connectivity through widespread broadband internet access, increased capability to store information and digitisation of news distribution – one of the biggest challenges to publishers.
“With the internet, distribution and access to the internet is truly global,” he said. “At first this might sound wonderful and it probably is, but it does present a problem: if anyone, at any time anywhere downloads content from the web, how do you as a media content distinguish your content?”
He pointed out that 50,000 magazines and 600,000 books are published in Europe each year, compared with the 5.5 million blogs in France alone.
Media companies faced the challenge of being discovered amongst this, he said. “At Google we don’t own and create content, we help people find itâ€¦it’s then up to the producer to decide whether to charge for it or offer it for free.
“Thanks to this model Google has helped drive traffic to thousands of websites around the world.”
Google’s AdSense advertising system – used by thousands of bloggers and news sites around the world – generated $1.4 billion (£693 million) last year.