Google has essentially always profited from the work of others as much as their own work. In their early days as a search company, they made their money by arranging and archiving content other people had created on the internet, and serving ads to people searching those archives. As a web services company, Google began to serve up some totally original content, such as their own maps and an email service, but search continued to be their prime product. All of this came to a head with YouTube, which attracted content creators over time, but mostly made its initial rise to fame from hosting music videos and the like. Google’s News service was no different; though they shared revenue with news providers whose material they displayed, they were still displaying other peoples’ material. Some newspaper publishers in Germany think that’s not quite enough, and that Google may be using its market dominance in the news space to favor some publications over others.
When Google hosts a newspaper article for free, it could be the very article that somebody would otherwise have picked up a paper from a vending machine to read. Likewise, a good amount of interesting articles found by somebody over time could convince them to drop their subscription, since reading Google News is free. The ad revenue shared by Google is provided even to free news outlets and doesn’t quite hit the same profit per view that a subscription model or selling papers on the corner can boast. It’s because of this that many German publishers, feeling they were being cheated, took Google to court. The judge on the case swiftly shot it down, calling the arrangement “win-win” and saying that Google did have dominance in the local news market, but was not abusing that power to play favorites with publications.
The 41 strong publisher group, which includes Germany’s newspaper market wunderkind, Axel Springer, has appealed the denial and will continue to fight against Google on this matter. At the center of the case are allegations that Google has shushed publishers in the past by promising to display abridged articles from those who demanded more money. According to a lawyer for the publishing collective, Jan Hegemann, the appeal was filed late last week and the plan is to continue along the same logical route for their argument; they will need to prove that Google is abusing its market dominance to favor some news platforms over others.