Google and Yahoo Tell Publishers: Let’s Be Buddies

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By: Jennifer Saba

“We want to be your best friends.” That’s what Google’s Director of Print Ads Tom Phillips said, on behalf of Yahoo and Microsoft also, at an afternoon panel on “partnerships in transition” during the Newspaper Association of America’s annual conference here in New York.

Indeed, one of the biggest stories in the industry in the past year was newspapers trying to form alliances with former foes Yahoo and Google.

Phillips along with Yahoo’s Hilary Schneider and Microsoft’s Harry Patz were reaching out to newspaper executives this afternoon — on why they need each other — an audience that included Walter Hussman Jr., who introduced himself as publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and an “op-ed” writer.

Hussman was referring good naturedly to an opinion piece he wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Monday titled “How to Sink a Newspaper.” In it, Hussman took issue with newspapers giving their content away for free online, such as via Yahoo and Google.

Both Schneider and Phillips were trying to sell newspapers on the idea that the industry needs their expertise and scale in technology and Google and Yahoo need newspapers’ expertise in local content.

Though there were many in the room that had partnered with the companies, several executives showed skepticism. “Why do you want to be our friends?” asked one executive.

Phillips said that Google’s core mission is access to information from all “domains.” Schneider responded that 115 million people visit Yahoo with a “local intent” — and Yahoo wants to take its technology infrastructure to help
newspapers.

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