The dangerous distraction of GWOG – the Global War on Google

Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants’ Global War on Google might make for entertaining copy for journalists who enjoy an old fashioned media war with titans going toe-to-toe, but Adam Tinworth has pointed out the danger of taking this rather noisy display of “posturing and PR” too seriously. It is distracting people in the news and information business from dealing with the real issues besetting our businesses.

But in this war of words, the true issues seem strangely absent. Where’s the discussion of how newspapers can compete for readers in the age of the attention crash? Where’s the careful analysis of the role of the general publication when their audience’s time is being slowly eaten away by a million and one niche websites that speak more directly to them than anything a national paper publishes? Who is talking about how you rebuild publishing companies to account for the new economic reality of internet publishing.

These are huge issues that are being completely ignored in the bluster of Murdoch’s posturing. These issues are critical in the development of any paid content strategy.

I would like to think that behind the public bluster that these issues are being discussed in strategy meetings across the industry, but I doubt it. I would wager that Adam and I have discussed these issues over beers more than they have been discussed in any boardroom. I feel relatively confident that I would win this wager.

While Adam highlights the scarcity of attention and abundance of content, industry leaders still boast about the indispensability and exceptional nature of their content. Too many newspaper editors still believe that their competition comes from other newspapers, not from music streamed on Spotify, TV from the BBC’s iPlayer or Apple’s iTunes or Modern Warfare 2 (which sold 4.7m copies in 24 hours). Newspaper journalism is competing for time and attention against a myriad of other choices in an over-saturated media environment. Until news organisations (and content creators of all stripes) begin to grapple with the economics of abundant content much of it of very high quality, we’re not going to take the many steps necessary to create sustainable businesses that support journalism.

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