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."