It's not Google's business to save the newspaper industry in Spain, or anywhere else

The Spanish press might have seen this coming after they demanded Google pay them for their stories

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The Independent Online

The rebellion of the newspapers has come to a rather embarrassing end. In Spain, a gang of titles has long lobbied for a Google tax. They got their wish this year. Spain’s government is passing a law that will force Google to pay a fee for the 30-word or so “snippets” of news reports – taken from Spanish websites – with which it stocks up Google News.

One hitch. Google does not want to pay. So it announced that from today there would simply be no more Google News in Spain. Vamos. And a cherry on top; Spanish papers would not appear on Google News around the world – so if a big story breaks in Spain this minute, international readers will only see the work of reporters from outside the country. All in all, a blow to the Spanish press, who, like the rest of us, rely on Google to direct readers to their stories online: more eyeballs, more advertising, more money to keep paying for staff and reporting the news.

The Spanish Newspaper Publisheditorialers’ Association (AEDE), which put its shoulder to the new law, is attempting a belated reverse ferret. Yesterday, it announced it wanted Google News back as the retreat would “undoubtedly have a negative impact on Spanish citizens and Spanish businesses”. Which is true. But having first sought to squeeze the Google teat for more cash, it’s a little undignified to start mewling now its bosom has been withdrawn as a result.

The AEDE might have seen it coming, too – newspapers in Belgium, France and Germany have attempted something similar and, although small concessions were won, had to water their claims down to more or less maintaining the status quo. The Spanish law, by contrast, is draconian. Publishers will not be able to opt out: they have to demand money from Google.

It’s a calamity, I hope you’ll agree, that newspapers are going out of business at such speed. And it was to a large degree the internet wot did it. But the genie cannot be put back in the bottle by government regulation. The newspapers that survive – smaller fish, perhaps, in a smaller pool – will be those that learn to swim with the demands of online journalism and find ways of making money from it. In short, Spain’s press lobby has learnt that you shouldn’t start up a game of chicken when you’re driving a beat-up Seat Ibiza and the other party is sitting at the wheel of a bullet train.

Google’s no pip squeak innocent, that said. It claims not to make any money out of its News service, but of course the site gathers users through it. Nevertheless, if the legacy media isn’t hurt by Google News (and it might even be helped), and the average internet drifter benefits, then this is one case that the Silicon Valley giant doesn’t fit in to the Big Bad Wolf costume that Europe has sized up for it. What’s the Spanish for “oops?”

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