GooNews: Google Dooms Some Commercial Database Publishers

September 9, 2008

I have been mired in family business about 90 miles south of Chicago. I was unfortunately unable to add my two cents to the Web wave of comments about Google’s scanning newspapers. Anyone remember University Microfilms, the outfit that put newspapers on–yuck–microfilm?  Techmeme and Megite have dozens of posts about Google scanning newspapers, and I doubt that my telling you that Google is supplementing its book scanning activities will add much to your day.

My angle on this announcement by Google here is rotated about six degrees off the Web buzz.

First, you can kiss most commercial database publishers’ as great investments good bye. Customers are tired of paying through the nose for “real” databases. The idea is that Google makes “toy” databases. Wrong. Google is collecting information and making it available with a business model that allows searching for free. Google’s business model is a big earth mover grinding down traditional media. Most traditional media mavens hear crunching but have not connected the noise with the footfalls of the GOOG.

Second, you can ignore those Monday Night Football ads from Thomson Reuters. There were more buzz words about intelligent information and professionals than I could process. Advertising is not going to sell search queries that cost anywhere from $5 to $500 per query. Yes, $500. Fire up Derwent. Hunt for Google patents. Poke around for prior art and let me know how much you pay to search and save your results. Google Patents may not be perfect, but access is free. Ads kon Monday Night Football won’t sell searches on WestLaw–ever.

Third, the yip yap of competitors, advertisers, and Google critics won’t make a single iota of difference to what Google is doing. I have been documenting for clients and for readers of my monographs that Google is a supra national enterprise. So tell me, “Who is going to regulate Google?” One wealthy wizard screamed at me when I hinted that Google could fold its tent and move to another country without much downtime. When I suggested Russia and mentioned Mr. Brin’s interest in going into space, the wealthy wizard foamed at the mouth. I think he threw a pencil at me. If GooNews wipes out companies in the archived news business, to whom does one complain.

In short, GooNews is the start of a new era at Google. I dubbed the company Googzilla in 2005. No one paid much attention. Bet those folks at ProQuest and Newsbank are perking up now. Agree? Disagree? Help me learn. Just bring facts.

Stephen Arnold, September 9, 2008


4 Responses to “GooNews: Google Dooms Some Commercial Database Publishers”

  1. Bruce Abbott on September 9th, 2008 5:10 pm

    I’ve shared your concerns regarding Google running traditional library vendors out of business for a number of years, and I have found my fellow librarians to be unconcerned. The Google mantra “Don’t be evil” really is not reassuring to me over the long haul.

    When libraries and academic researchers base our decisions on the business model of free access (based on their advertising revenues) of a specific company, we’re setting ourselves up for disaster. One scenario for the next shoe to drop happens when alternatives to Google (the traditional library vendors) disappear and Google seeks to enhance revenues by charging for access or more likely making its advertising and collection of user data even more invasive.

    I agree with you that Google’s goals will not be affected by criticism from academics or librarians. Libraries and librarians often complain that the traditional library vendors show a lack of responsiveness to our needs. Just wait to see what happens if we’re depending on Google to be responsive to our specific needs.

  2. Answer Maven on September 9th, 2008 6:46 pm

    If Google makes Legal Ads available digitally and makes them easier to locate, the real need for microfilm truly will disappear. Traditional vendors, in my experience, skip right over those valuable primary materials. March on Goog, if you can make that data not require a trip to the local library when the researcher is on a tight deadline.

  3. Stephen E. Arnold on September 9th, 2008 8:52 pm

    Bruce Abbott,

    When financial pressures increase, the choices will be hard, particularly for libraries of all types. Do we pay salaries, keep the lights on, and work with those who need guidance? Do we shift from fee to free online services, trim hours, and shift to job sharing? Today is one environment; tomorrow is another. Trouble looms for some for fee information providers. Newspapers and magazines are sinking now. Commercial online services are next or maybe going the way of Dialog–pennies on the dollar to move a property that’s on a fault line. Yikes, the New York Times just announced another round of job cuts.

    Stephen Arnold, September 9, 2008

  4. Rj Huggins on September 16th, 2008 10:29 am

    Just to set the record straight– was secretly purchased by Google in 2006. Our first meetings of the vision of a five hundred year historical newspaper universe began in late 2004. Most of the initial material on the Google New Archive website originates from Canada and is the legacy created by our team at Cold North Wind. As you may remember Cold North Wind was the first company to digitize an entire history of a newspaper with the Toronto Star from 1892 to the present. We’re proud to leave the legacy of our small company in the hands of Google.


    Bob Huggins
    Cold North Wind/

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