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Google CEO on Paid Content: 'The Reality is the Vast Majority of People Will Only Want the Free Model'

Excerpts from Eric Schmidt Q+A.


Bill Mickey By Bill Mickey
04/10/2009 -09:26 AM






Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, keynoted the Newspaper Association of America event in San Diego this week, just as newspaper executives were dragging out and dusting off the old aggregator backlash, whining about "stolen" content.

But Schmidt, during a Q+A session after his address, made some insightful remarks about online audience behavior with paid content, search and news.

His address was obviously targeted at newspapers and news-oriented content, but his takeaways can easily be applied to any online content publisher. We're all struggling with online business models and how visitors want to consume content.

Some key excerpts via Poynter, which has the full Q&A session transcript.

On online content models:

"I think from your perspective you should assume that there's a category of information you all produce that you'll want to distribute freely. There's a category you'll want to have on a per click basis. And there's some that you'll want subscription for. The reality in this model is the vast majority of people will only want the free model, so you'll be forced, whether we like it or not, to have a significant advertising component as well as a micropayment and a traditional payment system."

On how newspapers were good at repurposing content, but missed the engagement boat:

"The act after [repurposing content online] is a much harder question. It's how do you keep engagement? How do you avoid being just mediated with a set of stories that are aggregated with your brand on them, which is what's happened to some newspapers? So in the case you were describing, if I were involved in the digital part of a newspaper, trying to understand what to do, I would first and foremost try to understand what my reader wants."

On intellectual property rights:

"I disagree with your premise that they will continue to erode. What I do believe is that all these partially-thought-through legal systems are being challenged by the ubiquity of the Internet. Just as free speech is being affected by the fact that people are free to speak whatever they think even if we really don't want to hear them. It's the same problem."

On online measurement:

"We look at clicks and we also look at how long people stay on a page. And we can then infer interest. Your question is so good because it shows you how early we are in the industry. We don't have combined, accurate, audited ways of measuring audiences, counting advertisers, all of which has to be developed as a technology behind the businesses that all of us are going to build.

It took many, many years for the same business structures to be designed for the audit circulation bureaus for magazines. The same thing is going to occur and it will occur because it needs to. For our purposes, we use our internal information which is accurate, but as I agree, there is not a uniform standard."

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Bill Mickey By Bill Mickey -- Bill Mickey is editor of Folio:. Follow him on Twitter: @billmickey

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