news aggregatorsGoogle is the bad guy yet again. Well, not just Google but other news aggregators. Spain is attempting to pass a law to force aggregators to pay for the content they collect.

The argument for the law is that most people don’t click through headlines and snippets to get to the “real” site. So since the news site isn’t getting their page views from the aggregators, they want to charge for the links. From the article:

Under the new law, the original publisher will be compensated even for the reproduction of headlines and snippets of text. Written permission and a greater fee will be demanded if an aggregator wishes to reproduce the whole article.

I have less of a problem with paying for the permission to use the entire article, but headline and snippet? Really? Here’s where I think the newspapers are completely missing the point.

It looks like they are using data from this report (which will cost $995 to download, so I’m relying on the summary) from 2009.  Apparently that report shows that less than half of users of Google News actually click through to the newspaper article. So let’s break this down.

First, a report from 2009? While it might still be accurate, I doubt it. Using more recent data would better.

Second, assuming the percentages are reasonably accurate, let’s ask this question: Without the aggregator, would the reader have ever seen the story? I know that I don’t follow every feed in even the digital marketing area. I discover new stories from our Morning Links, the daily roundup at The Digital Reader and other places. No, I don’t click through to every article (more on that in a minute), but I do discover stories I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. If I don’t know an article exists, I certainly won’t click through to it.

Thirdly, why do I fail to click through every snippet? Hello! Because I’m not interested in every article I find. Why would I click on an article that didn’t interest me? (Another note. Better-written headlines and snippets get more clicks.)

I think the Spanish government is drawing the wrong conclusions from the data. Aggregators aren’t bad. They expose readers to content they might not otherwise have discovered. However, don’t assume readers have time to read everything. Picking and choosing what to read is completely valid. So charging for the headline and snippet is just insane.

Speaking of insanity, Nate has an excellent roundup of previous (failed) attempts to impose this sort of payment scheme. Click through the link, okay. It’s a good article.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail