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Google-AP Deal Not Pay-Per-Click & Some Further Details

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As it happens, I was at Google yesterday when the story came out about the financial agreement between Google and the Associated Press over the use of AP content. That story raised a number of questions, and here are some answers I can share so far from Google.

First, this is not a pay per click deal. Yesterday's Mercury News article talks about some agreements in general being this way:

It's a common perception, but it's false. Google and Yahoo, along with dozens of other Internet companies, have been quietly agreeing to deals that compensate some of the country's top news organizations for their content and help drive more traffic to their Web sites.

Recently completed deals, which include arrangements in which media organizations such as the Associated Press will be compensated on a pay-per-click basis, could herald a major shift in the relationship between the old media and new Internet gatekeepers.

The article doesn't say that the Google deal specifically is pay per click, but some people might wonder if that's the case. Google now clarifies that it is not.

Is this an agreement to keep Google from being sued by the AP, as it is by the AFP? Google wouldn't answer directly but said:

Google News is fully consistent with fair use and always has been.

Note that paidContent has reported how the AP only a few months ago said:

Let me say more clearly: we're not suing them.

So I tend to think it's safe to say this wasn't being driven out of legal fears.

What's the agreement cover? No more real details than you've already read before:

The license in this agreement provides for new uses of original AP content for features and products we will introduce in the future. We are very excited about the innovative new products we will build with full access to this content.

But note that this specifically talks about new uses -- not current uses. IE, I read this as Google saying again that what it has been doing to index AP content is not something it feels it needed an agreement to do.

Also this tidbit:

This is not the first time we've had a financial arrangement with a news organization.

Coincidentally, I'm at news search site Topix today, literally borrowing a conference room to do some email and blogging catch-up. I had a catch-up meeting with them earlier, and the issue of deals with the AP and newspapers in general came up.

Topix noted they signed an agreement with the AP earlier this year, which is part of an overall trend where they've seen news organizations eager to come up with new ways to work with news search sites.

Was this prompted by a legal fear? No. It was part of figuring out a way of dealing with syndicated news content that helps treat the AP's member publications fairly online.

AP stories can originate from one of thousands of member publications. Any of those thousands of member publications might also republish an AP story. Which story is the originating one? That's useful for a search engine to know, if you don't want your results to get overwhelmed by having duplicates of all the same content.

In terms of fairness, Topix uses the agreement to get a rich data feed of content from the AP (along with many other things). This helps them better understand if an AP story originated from a particular member publication and, if so, to link over to the publication that deserves the credit.

The agreement also allows Topix to put AP-originated national and international stories on its own site, rather than having to guess at which of many different news sites to point at.

For example, if the AP runs some international story that an AP reporter has written, how should Topix decide which newspaper to point at? Just pick some random newspaper that had nothing to do with creating it? And if so, what about registration or payment issues that might be in place at that random paper.

Hosting AP national and international stories helps solve this problem. Of course, hosting AP stories that come from the AP directly also means Topix -- and indirectly the AP -- can earn from ad revenue.

Understanding what Topix does with the AP shed sheds some light on possible Google motivations in working with the AP. Perhaps we'll see hosted stories as Topix is doing -- and as Yahoo also does -- for some of the reasons explained above. And perhaps the deal also is to give Google better news search capabilities as I've also outlined, something that's hard to do without a deeper relationship.

Postscript: Google, AP Disclose News Payment Deal from, ironically, the Associated Press suggests that a legal dispute was behind the deal. From the lead:

Google Inc. is paying The Associated Press for stories and photographs, settling a dispute with a major provider of the copyright news that the online search engine finds and displays on its popular Web site.

But further into the story, I don't see anything explicitly supporting that statement. There's this:

While AFP sued to protect its rights, the AP chose to negotiate terms with Google, which, after just seven years of existence, is nearly 10 times larger than the 160-year-old news cooperative in terms of revenue. The AP, a not-for-profit organization owned by U.S. news companies, had revenues of $654 million in 2005. Google, a publicly owned company, reported $6.1 billion in revenue last year and is on a pace to exceed $9 billion this year.

By agreeing to pay AP for content, Google falls in line with the owners of other popular news sites like Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, which have been anteing up for years.

"We are happy to be dealing with Google as we are with all the major superpowers on the Internet," Seagrave [Jane Seagrave, the AP's vice president of new media markets] .said. "We are always looking for new ways to innovate."

But there's no one from the AP explicitly attributed in the story as saying that the AP was going to sue unless this agreement was reached. Still, I know the story author Michael Liedtke well, and I can't see him saying there was a dispute unless someone was saying that was what this about. I assume that would have been Jane Seagrave.


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