Google hits back at WSJ's 'internet vampire' claims

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The Independent Online

Google has vowed to heal the rift with newspaper publishers facing up to the digital age, rejecting claims that it is an "internet vampire". The internet search portal's comments came after Les Hinton, the chief executive of The Wall Street Journal, last week criticised Google for "sucking the blood" out of the newspaper business.

Josh Cohen, a senior manager at Google News, rejected the claim, saying: "We see our relationships with newspapers as strong partnerships where we both bring something to the table. We bring a lot of value to publishers." Mr Hinton's boss, Rupert Murdoch, and Dean Singleton, chairman of the news agency Associated Press have also attacked online news services for "misappropriating" content.

Google has access to more than 25,000 sources of published news around the world; via its Google News it directs almost a billion clicks to news websites every month. "That's not insignificant," Mr Cohen added. "We obviously derive value from publishers. We also bring value to them."

However it was Mr Cohen who announced, in a blog post back in February, that Google would sell advertising alongside its news searches in the US. The move proved controversial as the revenues are not shared with the publishers. Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt, left, also criticised newspapers earlier this year, saying: "The majority of newspaper content should be online rather than printed."

After taking legal action, the French news agency Agence France-Presse agreed a licensing deal with Google in 2007. Other groups this year came out against the internet site.

Mr Cohen said: "I can understand why publishers want to roll the clock back 10 years, maybe even five years, to where the business model was very different. You could take Google completely out of the equation and it does not change those forces that have happened. The best chance for news comes with the opportunity to reach millions of users at zero cost of distribution."