By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Members of Brazil’s Associação National de Jornais (National Association of Newspapers, ANJ) – which includes over a hundred of Brazil’s main newspapers – have agreed unanimously to withdraw their publications from online news aggregator Google News after a dispute over payments for their content. Some 154 organizations are involved, including around ninety percent of the country’s newspapers (which are Portuguese-language).
The ANJ argues that Google is benefiting from its members’ content without paying for it and reducing traffic to their sites: these include some of Brazil’s most influential publications – Rio market leader, O Globo, and São Paulo’s two leading newspapers, Folha de S. Paulo and O Estado de S. Paulo.
“Google News benefits commercially from that quality content and is unwilling to discuss a remuneration model for the production of these materials,” ANJ president Carlos Fernando Lindenberg Neto said in an interview with Texas-based Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.
“Staying in Google News was not helping us grow our digital audiences. On the contrary, by providing the first few lines of our stories to Internet users, the service reduces the chances that they will look at the entire story,” he concludes, adding that publications have witnessed a drop in readership of around five percent as a result.
Yet Google has argued that it should not have to pay for a service that, for their part, brings benefits to its clients: “Google News channels a billion clicks to news sites around the world,” said Google Brazil’s Public Policy Director, Marcel Leonardi, likening the demands for remuneration to making a taxi driver pay for taking tourists to eat at a restaurant.
Harold Emert, an expatriate in Rio and journalist of nearly forty years, tells The Rio Times he applauds Brazil’s “standing-up to a bully [Google], which has become our international vice for better or worse,” and hopes “old-fashioned style journalism” will return and prevail:
“Fortunately, we still have newspapers in Brazil which publish lengthy articles, columns and editorials rather than following the format of [...] cutting off all the editorial “fat” possible.”
Emert believes O Estado and Folha de S. Paulo must have been influential in pulling the plug on Google in Brazil’s media, and – unlike their American counterparts – sees them only getting stronger, with readerships moving from paper to tablets, and expanding with Brazil’s middle class and international attention from the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
The idea to pull out of Google News was first considered in 2011 after an experiment held in 2010 – to allow the news aggregator to display the opening paragraph of articles – did little or nothing for readership figures as many readers did not continue on to the newspapers’ own sites.
An intense debate at the Inter American Press Association’s 68th General Assembly earlier in mid-October then appears to have spurred the ANJ into taking action again the American Internet giant. Despite the action against Google News, the newspapers’ online (almost entirely Portuguese-language) news and content will still be searchable in the regular Google search engine.
Google recently hit headlines in Brazil after its head of Brazilian operations, Fábio José Silva Coelho, was detained after video clips defaming a Mato Grosso do Sul mayoral candidate were not taken down from YouTube, which is owned by Google. Mr. Coelho was released after agreeing to appear in court at a later date.