Mark Cuban is hating on Google
Cuban's made his dislike of Google abundantly clear. His motives must reach beyond the news-aggregation angle, though, because he lists tech-news aggregator techmeme as one of the 10 blogs that he reads.
Maybe Sergey Brin bullied him as a kid. Perhaps Marissa Mayer shot him down at his high school prom. Whatever the motive, this has become a personal vendetta for Cuban, at the risk of clouding his judgment and distorting his perceptions of reality.
Cuban is a colorful billionaire, capable of brilliant insight more often than not. But this time, he's just flat-out wrong.
Brand on the run
Cuban argues that Google News is eating away at newspaper brands. "When that newspaper allows itself to be included in Google News it becomes a de facto endorsement of Google News as an acceptable and probably preferable discovery destination," he writes, ultimately suggesting that readers will simply abandon their local newspaper sites and lean more on Google News.
Cuban then argues that being cataloged by an aggregator turns news into a commodity, when a newspaper is one of potentially thousands of listed sources for the same story.
"It is never good for a brand to be considered one of 2,000 plus sources," he writes. "Ever."
Let's break this down, though. Can there be several thousand sources? Of course -- especially if the story is national or even global in scope. Let's forget about the newspapers for a moment. What about the readers? Why should they be limited to just one perspective? Why should we assume that blindly trusting the local source covering a national story is any better than letting Google's algorithmic prowess work its magic? That's just jingoistic malarkey.
Is Cuban somehow trying to argue that a level playing field is bad?
I thought newspaper companies were holding up better in cyberspace than they were in print:
(NYSE:MNI)posted quarterly results last week. Digital ad revenue soared 15%, even though overall revenue took a 16% hit.
- Two weeks ago, New York Times
(NYSE:NYT)announced that it would introduce a metered model in 2011, charging readers beyond a certain number of freebies as a way to enhance its "robust" online advertising business.
(NYSE:GCI)and New York Times may have posted year-over-year declines in their online advertising for their latest quarters, but print advertising has taken bigger hits.
In short, let's stop blaming Google for the newspaper industry's printing-press woes. If old-school paper companies can't master dot-com monetization or maximize the incremental traffic delivered through Google News, they're to blame.
Another Cuban missile crisis
Reaching for a smoking gun, Cuban then goes on to suggest that it's a "very real possibility" that Google could begin creating its own content. It could hire reporters, and then promote its original articles over other sources.
"See AOL," he writes. "See Yahoo. Both are now creating original content in huge quantities."
That's right. We're talking about the same AOL
"You are in denial if you think this will never happen," he concludes.
I believe that Cuban is the one in denial, if he thinks it ever will happen. Google is a growth company, for starters. It's also a search engine, built to cash in when it delivers leads to sponsors. It may have evolved to include stickier offerings, including Gmail and Google Docs, but the Google model remains the same. Google News' credibility is only as good as its bias-free approach.
Cuban's aim, apparently? To simply spook media companies into seeing Google as an enemy.
He's not alone. News Corp.'s
There's always room for a rebel. Perhaps the first publication or two to truly stop Google crawlers at the door will benefit at first. Readers will make it a point to visit, knowing that Google News won't take them there. However, an Internet that is all about a world of nearly infinite choice is no place for a close-minded walled media empire.
Blaming Google for an industry's misplaced bravado and inflated self-worth is just plain stupid.
Is Google News friend or foe to the newspaper industry? Check in with your thoughts in the comment box below.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has always relished the rare moments when one of his articles makes the landing page cut on Google News. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.