Google threatens to leave Australia.

by Jim January 28, 2021

Google is threatening to leave Australia, in search anyway, due to the demand that they pay news publishers for their content. I did a show on this last year and now it’s getting ugly! They say it’s too difficult to just remove news content but they’ve also started testing it. Google is already a monopoly and wields enormous power when it comes to censoring content, but what choice do we have?

  • Will they follow through on their threat?
  • Can’t they just make you pay for news?
  • Why I could be a “news organisation”.
  • News and weather dominate search.
  • Why it would devastate the economy.

Transcript

Hey, welcome back Rankers. How you going? That escalated quickly didn’t it? Everyone just calm down. Google’s threatening to leave Australia in search, which is interesting, which we’ll get to. The reason for this is the story I did last August, it’s not because of my story. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not my fault like my wife said. It’s the story about news companies, news publishers wanting Google to pay for their search results, their organic search results. And as I said last year that well, hang on your business model isn’t working so you want to take money from the people’s whose business model is working because you’ve stuck with an outdated model. And I won’t go back over all those things when I gave News Limited a kicking and other big old stream media a kicking as well. And I did touch on some of the stuff that Google does and did say, “Yes, it is a monopoly and we need more competition in search.”

Sorry, we’re outa here!

But Google’s CEO in Australia last Friday has basically said that, “Yeah, we’re going to have to leave Australia.” Now the thing is, honestly why don’t they just remove news content? Well, Google said, “Well, it’s too hard.” Yet they started a trial last week, as I think it was Barry Schwartz, hi Barry, reported. And as I’ve said, the news section in Google, you have to be approved for that so it’s curated content. So, they could definitely switch that one off. I guess the thing they would have trouble with is based on the definition of what the government is calling a news organisation. I went through the guidelines that the government put out and theoretically, I reckon I could qualify to become a media organisation, that would be eligible to get some of this cash. And that’s because I’ve had a YouTube video for 16 years and I’ve been bringing information to the Australian public around things like internet censorship, like things like auDA and domain names, and other newsworthy things about the internet, including marketing.

And we make all the other thresholds of course. So, theoretically you could say, well, geez, all the YouTubers and bloggers could benefit from this as well. When you read the guidelines, if they correctly jump through all the hoops. And so, that could be difficult but I mean, you’re talking about Google. You’re talking about a company with thousands and thousands of engineers. And for Google to say they don’t make money out of news. Well, they don’t have ads on the news section. They don’t have ads on the news tab, right? However, most people don’t use that when they’re actually searching for news. And to show you what I mean we can have a look here, this is Google’s own data. Although I found some of this is not accurate. This column here is definitely not accurate. I don’t know how they come up with this. However, this is true. These are, well, these are the trending topics, so maybe ones that are out of the ordinary ones that have spiked or come up during the year of 2020.

They’re not necessarily based on total volume. And I can show you some of that. Certainly these are not based on total volume of search keywords. But the thing to note here is Google is saying these are news topics, right. And that’s a news topic, and that’s a news topic. And then they’re also saying that these were the two biggest searches that Australians did in 2020. So, you would say then, kind of news is the biggest driver of traffic to Google in 2020. I know when we go and have a look at just generally search volumes. I mean you can have a look at this one yourself but throw some of these in. I seriously don’t know how they come up with this list because when you go and have a look, that’s just, Kim Jong-Un way back here, Tom Hanks, pretty much nothing in comparison. Did I say nothing? Nothing in comparison to the other ones anyway. But when we have a look at search in Australia for 2020, and I haven’t put any keywords in here, right.

So, Google will just show me the highest volume search phrases. And you can sort between top or rising and everything else. Well, you can see here it’s weather and news. Coronavirus that’s right and Facebook. So Google, so for Google to say it doesn’t make money off news that’s probably directly, you could say off their new section, that’s probably the case, but Mel Silva the CEO of Google put out a video last week. It was a bit too scripted and choreographed for me, and it came over a little bit insincere because one of the things that she said was that paying to link to sites is not how search engines work. Well, search engines wouldn’t exist unless we had paid links to sites, right? It’s just that Google’s not doing the paying for those links. I don’t know how this is going to resolve itself. But one thing that I am thinking about is what happens if Google does pull search products out of Australia.

What would be left?

So, that would be ads and organic, basically, not anywhere where news content would appear. Images probably as well because it’s a search product. So, that’s all your little search tabs. And so, things like, presumably Gmail, Google Suite would stay, Maps would stay, but Google My Business would be gone. So, it would have a massive, massive impact on the Australian economy and what the prime minister has said is that it’s blackmail. Well, I don’t think so, I think blackmail means that if you don’t do this thing, I’m going to tell the world something terrible about you. That’s not what’s going on here. It’s sort of more extortion and Google has become so big now that they could threaten governments and governments would have to look at this and say, “Well shit, if Google’s saying they’re going to pull out, what does that mean to Australian businesses?” Now given that we have a monopoly, this is what happens right? This is where we’re at. And it makes me think fundamentally about what search is, because it only really came around with computers.

You used to go to the library and you used to search through file cards. You used to use indexes in books or alphabetizing in Yellow Pages. And the Yellow Pages was also full of free listings as well. And they had paid ads. But no one was going to the Yellow Pages for the news, which is the argument of all news media. And basically this is two, there’s someone in the office, there’s two rich kids fighting on the playground. Thanks Heath. Because it’s a great club but you ain’t in it, right. As George Carlin said, and whatever happens here, Google saying that they’re trying to make it sound like it’s all about organic and it’s open free web. Well, we know it’s not an open free web anymore. And we’ve done shows on that and we can show examples of where Google will show one thing, and DuckDuckGo would show what you would expect, but Google hasn’t. We know and Google’s been out there and said that we changed the results based on our own internal policy.

So, they do edit the content as well. And they certainly outside just their ranking factors and their algorithm. There are other algorithms like we saw during the election, like I did a show on, where they are censoring to some extent or changing or not allowing people to see things that they can see in other search engines quite easily. Call it what you want. But I think we’re in for an interesting six months and Google has said, “We’ve got a better idea. How about a news showcase?” That just sounds like paid curated news. Just the whole thing just doesn’t sit right with me and Google talking about a free and open web and all this sort of stuff. Well, if you do a search on your mobile phone, the first screen you see is all paid links, right? It’s all ads. Now, if you go to Bing, 19 results on that first page will be paid and only four of them will be organic for a lot of searches I’ve done anyway. DuckDuckGo I’m using more and more and more.

And I’ve got specialist search engines that I’ll use for looking for old scientific publications and stuff like that, that I’m interested in. Those I just can’t find in Google. And we always hoped that that would be a thing. We would see other search engines spring up and we’d have not so much of a monopoly, but as it happens, those things haven’t eventuated or if they have, they probably get bought up before we even hear of them. So, if Google does move out, the questions will be well, will Australians still be able to get google.com or would we have to use a VPN to see google.com? And if so, if a lot of Australians are going to start to use google.com, could we still do ads? So, there’s this debate, Google earned $4 billion last year, but they only paid 59 million in tax. Presumably that’s not GST. That’s probably just company tax.

But yeah, it’s a really difficult one because Google is way too powerful now, and lovely people at Google. It’s not about them. It’s about the monster that is Google. I would say Google’s been a little bit disingenuous in saying that they can’t remove news. I think they could remove a lot of it. I think they could instruct businesses how to use robots, robots.txt And that would fix everything. The problem is then you’re not going to get as many people coming to Google. If all those big new sites aren’t found in Google. So, this is a symbiotic relationship between old media and new media. However it ends we’ll probably be the losers, whichever way it goes, right. But I’d love to know your thoughts. Please share and subscribe because we’ve got a webinar coming up in mid-February, mid to late February.

So, I’d love to see you there if you are a retailer and please tell your friends and yeah, I’d love to know your thoughts. There’s been a few passionate people on LinkedIn talking about it as well. So, hit me up there and we’ll have a discussion there as well, curious times. Thanks very much everyone. Bye.

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