Google to Murdoch: Peace Offering or Fighting Words?

CEO Eric Schmidt has had enough of people saying his company kills print. Bloggers say too late, the war is on.

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Google is no playground weakling, but Rupert Murdoch's cantankerous attacks--which the Wire has covered here, here, here and here--seemed to wrest a major concession from Google this week. Now Google CEO Eric Schmidt has formally hit back at Murdoch in an op-ed for one of Murdoch's own papers, the Wall Street Journal. In his piece "How Google Can Help Newspapers," Schmidt rejects accusations that Google feeds and thrives off the work of other media outfits. Instead, he promotes a symbiotic relationship between new and old media--if only the latter would see it that way. Bloggers, meanwhile, saw Schmidt's words as everything from a gesture of friendship to a declaration of war.

  • Why Can't We Be Friends? Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch reads Schmidt's piece as an attempt to parry criticisms of print publishers and pave the road to reconciliation: "Not even Google can save much of the dying print newspaper business, but it can help them build up their digital revenues. And that's the subtext of Google's message to newspaper publishers: Don't shoot the gift horse that feeds you. (To mangle three well-worn phrases together). Those 4 billion clicks a month are a gift. While they might not add up to expense-account lunches all around at Per Se, they are nourishment nonetheless."
  • Empty Gesture At Econsultancy, Meghan Keane agrees that Google's CEO is right to defend his company's name and business practices. However, she reminds readers that unlike Google, newspapers "don't have a windfall of product search ads to fall back on. Publishers now need to find a better delivery method for their content -- and a better monetization route." Schmidt, she says, fails to offer workable ideas for how newspapers can generate revenue now: "[His] piece may help in the PR battle to clear Google's reputation in the media, but it doesn't contain the answers publishers are looking for. Google may not be the cause of newspapers' problems. But they aren't likely to be the solution either."
  • Crossing the Rubicon PaidContent's Robert Andrews says that while parts of the op-ed have Schmidt on the defensive, it's a fierce counter-attack that suggests the divide between old and new media may be irreconcilable: "His other language toward the recent critics is some of the tersest yet, showing how Google has had to come out fighting, at least for the moment...And we may have reached a point in the debate where Schmidt's main olive branches in the op-ed - Google's underwhelming Fast Flip experiment, a promise of mobile news to come and a reminder that publishers can always de-index themselves using robots.txt - may not be enough to rise above the current Murdoch-vs-Google din."
  • And Here Come the Feds  At Contrarian Blogging for Contrarian Profits, Andrew Snyder argues that the answer to publishers' conundrum somewhere in-between Schmidt's and Murdoch's vision of the future. However, he says that the News Corp. Chairman is likely to get his way and then some because he has more sway over Washington:
Just like a Manhattan businessman goes to Guido looking for some 'fire insurance,' Murdoch and company are in Washington asking for protection from the ankle-biting competition.

What does Murdoch want from Obama?

He wants what every man wants, the ability to buy more. Under current regulations, Murdoch is unable to make purchases in certain rival publications and media outlets. But with the notion of critical mass on his side, if he could get the right to buy and control his rivals, he would have a much better shot at coercing the industry to move in the "right" direction. He could save journalism as we know it.
  • It's Bad All Over British newspaper the Guardian quotes Google UK director Matt Brittin's own retort to Murdoch and Co., which also appeared on Thursday. Brittin, like his higher-up Schmidt, acknowledged that local newspapers were suffering, but he also offered his hope for eventual harmony between print media and Google: "Brittin added that he cared about local papers and saw a 'sustainable and successful future for local media over the medium to long term', pointing out that digital technology reduced the cost of distributing content. 'The economics are going to be different from a time when the only place to advertise was in your local paper. But I think there's an exciting future.'"
  • Sexual Subtext Finally, Gawker's Ryan Tate offers a creative Freudian analysis of Eric Schmidt's words in a post entitled 'Eric Schmidt's Kinky Fantasy': "Google's CEO writes in the Wall Street Journal that 'frustrated newspaper executives are looking for someone to blame' for their decline, but they shouldn't blame him: His 'fantasy news gadget' makes you pay for access to the goods. Freak."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.