Paying for Free Web Information

Newspaper publishers and other content producers have a complicated relationship with giant search engines like Google and Yahoo. They simultaneously try to curry favor with these sites, hiring people known as optimizers with magical incantations to make articles show up high on the results pages and drive traffic, all the while grumbling that maybe, perhaps, it isn’t fair for the search engines to make copies of their material — so that it can be searched or appear on aggregation sites like Google News — without compensation.But few are willing to speak as unambiguously as Samuel Zell, the real estate developer who intends to buy the Tribune Company, did this spring at Stanford University.”If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content for nothing, what would Google do?” he asked. “We have a situation today where effectively the content is being paid for by the newspapers and stolen by Google, et cetera. That can last for a short time, but it can’t last forever. I think Google and the boys understand that. We’re going to see new deals and new formulas in the media space that reflect the reality of cost benefit.”

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