January 20, 2006

Why does pro-content have to be anti-Google?

by skrenta at 4:08 PM

I'm late to the BusinessWeek story Putting the Screws to Google, but someone just asked me about it so I'm posting my thoughts.

...picture this: Walt Disney (DIS ), News Corp. (NWS ), NBC Universal, and The New York Times (NYT ), in an odd tableau of unity, join together and say: "We are the founding members of the Content Consortium. Next month we launch our free, searchable Web site, which no outside search engines can access." (A simple bit of code is all it takes to bar all or some major search engines from accessing a site.) "From now on we'll make our stuff available and sell ads around it and the searches for it, but only on our terms. Who else wants to join us? Membership's free."

Many others have written about this story, for a good summary of opinions see Jeff Jarvis.

I'm going to take a different view and say that what Jon Fine describes in his article is exactly what the news industry should build, except for the google opt-out. Acknowledge and respect that Google is the home page of the Internet and the source of new trial users (and a heck of a great ad channel too). Beyond that, having a coherently organized and searchable quality content store is a great idea. All the content on one site was and still is the holy grail of the news industry.

Keep in mind that pratical considerations include successfully building a great product to house the great content. Success isn't guaranteed, and is entirely unlikely if left to consultants and outsourcing which all-too-often is the implementation path for media co's online. Building a decent search-based site is harder than it looks. It's not "just put up a search". Online product development, esp. when search technology is involved, is not "just" anything.