Of its annual revenue, Google earns $38 billion from the sale of “sponsored links” alone. It seems Google has successfully convinced advertisers that the links they provide are of value to their businesses as a form of advertising. That is until recently.
Many European newspapers and magazines are pushing for legislation to change how Google, as well as other search engines and newsgathering sites, earn revenue. They believe Google and its counterparts should pay them instead as their newspapers and magazines provide the material these sites generate revenue from.
Reversing the monetary flow seems imminent. A German bill is already being reviewed by Parliament and would allow publishers to charge search engines and news curating sites a fee to display parts of their articles with links to the paper or magazine. In France, President François Hollande is aggressively pushing for similar legislation unless a solution is found by the end of the year to compensate the publishers for their content. Italy is also starting to look into similar action.
Google is adamant that these types of laws go against the free flow of information on the Internet and would destroy their existence. They have countered with threatening to exclude these sites from search results. This is no empty threat either as in France alone 30 to 40 percent of news sites traffic comes from Google. Publishers are already struggling to increase revenue, which is why they are trying to reverse the current monetary flow with Google.
It seems both sides are dependent on these dollars being placed in their favor. Is there a solution to benefit both sides? Would a pay wall help or hurt the papers and magazines? I think the most important part is that this will affect users. Either search results will be missing pertinent information, or site vistors may be forced to make up for missed revenue by subscribing. The ever-growing idea of free information on the Web is at stake.