Google Chairman Eric Schmidt recently sat down with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and discussed how newspapers can emerge from their downward spiral. His solution, not surprisingly, is less privacy.
Google built its gargantuan multi-billion dollar business by selling targeted ads linked to the creative work of others. When you search for a topic, ads are served based on the content of your search results. Many of those results are the work of journalists.
As once mighty newspapers crumble because of an outdated business model, many in the profession are outraged by Google's free ride on their backs. As Dowd notes:
"Robert Thomson, the top editor of The Wall Street Journal, denounced Web sites like Google as 'tapeworms.' His boss, Rupert Murdoch, said that big newspapers do not have to let Google 'steal our copyrights.' The A.P. has threatened to take legal action against Google and others that use the work of news organizations without obtaining permission and sharing a 'fair' portion of revenue. But what’s fair will be hard to prove."
Schmidt told Dowd that the solution is "to invent a new product." He suggested new ways for newspapers to sell ads. Dowd explains:
"He admits that it’s harder for newspapers to target ads as precisely as Google does. If you’re reading about a murder with a knife, he says, you can’t show a cutlery ad. He’s talking to newspapers about a new ad model that 'understands your history and your interests.'
"' They’d know enough about your demographic to know male, female, age group, what have you,' he says. 'The whole secret here is the ads are worth more if they’re more targeted, more personal, more precise.'"
Dowd sums up Schmidt's view exactly:
"To save journalism, Google has to know my most intimate secrets?"
Actually with Google's newly announced foray into behavioral advertising -- they prefer to call "interest-based advertising" -- the company isn't saving journalism. They are intruding further into our private lives merely to stuff their pockets with cash.