Google licenses AP and other wire content — and stiffs newspapers

Google is paying to licenses content from four wire agencies and will give the wire services more play on Google News — effectively stiffing newspapers and others that Google had linked to previously.

The move is controversial, because there’s already considerable tension between Google and newspapers, with Chicago’s Sam Zell, future owner of the Tribune Co., saying Google is stealing traffic.

Articles from the agencies — which include the popular Associated Press, as well as the Press Association of Britain, Canadian Press, and Agence France-Presse — will now have their articles featured with the organizations’ own brands on Google News. So Google effectively keeps the traffic. It won’t link to the versions of the wire stories that run in the newspapers and other sites that publish those same wire stories, so as to avoid duplication. That means newspapers will no longer get traffic they previous enjoyed, resulting in a potential loss of revenue, even though those newspapers pay the wire services and keep them in business. We expect some conflict to arise from this, considering Josh Cohen, business product manager of Google News, said his company will consider running advertising alongside the agencies’ articles, which will likely tick off the newspapers even more. More from Google here.

Google says it won’t be ranking the wire articles higher in its algorithm, meaning they won’t necessarily show higher in the results. However, by weeding out links to duplicate wire stories carried by other sources, the end result is that Google and the wire services will benefit over others.

Here’s an example of a AFP story under the new system. You’ll see it is hosted on Google’s servers. You’ll see a link (left in image below; see arrow) that lets you show all the articles where the story has run, including in other newspapers. However, this is an extra step now that few people are likely to take.

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