Sunday, March 20, 2005
AFP Mistaken About Google News
The French news service Agence France Presse (AFP) is suing Google for indexing AFP in its popular Google News service. The AFP's cause for concern is that its subscription-only content is supposedly being provided free of charge by Google News.
Unfortunately, that statement is misleading. As a user of Google News for a couple years now, I have found it to be an invaluable resource. The site is my home page and I visit it more frequently than any other. Visitors to Google News know that the site simply indexes headlines from various news websites around the world and provides links to the full article on the respective organization's own website.
News organizations have the option of not being included in the Google News service, but virtually all of them do because the exposure is beneficial. I can attest that my reading habits have broadened after having read articles from publications I would not otherwise have the initiative or access to read. Certainly then, AFP is denying itself the opportunity to attract readers who would be interested in becoming subscribers based on the substantial content AFP offers.
Additionally, the AFP could very well solve their problem by following a model similar to others online publications that want to protect their content. Several organizations, including such prominent figures as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all require a user name and password to access a lot of their content. Or the AFP could go the route of Salon, and institute a pay-to-read system.
If the AFP really doesn't want in, they have that right and it appears Google has honored that. Personally though, I think the AFP is doing itself a disservice. Isn't the objective to get your content to as many readers as possible? Google News only helps direct readers to sites where they can get news. How those sites want to manager their own product is up to them, but it seems to me that AFP can come up with a better solution than the one they've got.