Google Europe Chief on Print Media Crisis 'We Take Publishers' Concerns Seriously'
In a SPIEGEL interview, Philipp Schindler, the 38-year-old head of Google Europe, talks about attacks made by publishers against the search engine giant and the quest for Web business models that work.
SPIEGEL: German publisher Hubert Burda and others blame you for expropriating from the publishing industry, saying Google helps itself to their content and then sells ads around it. How does it feel to be held responsible for the downfall of an industry?
Schindler: We understand publishers' fears. But it's not our fault that people have decided to consume media in a digital form. I would be pleased if publishers would take the energy they're investing in attacks on Google and use it to develop successful Internet business models instead. We would gladly help them with that, and we already work closely together. But they have to do their own homework.
SPIEGEL: Publishers have nothing against the digital consumption of their content. But they want to earn money too. That's understandable, right?
Schindler: We keep hearing the argument that we're getting rich off of something we're not paying for. Last year alone, we passed along $5 billion to our partners, and we're investing a lot of money in further developing our search capability. Users appreciate that -- and with Google News alone we send publishers a billion clicks a month worldwide. That's certainly fair.
SPIEGEL: So, it's all just fuss from a shriveling print sector that is jealously eyeing your profits?
Schindler: No, we do take the concerns seriously. But recently I read a good analogy in the Netzeitung (a German online-only news site): Let's say you run a zoo, and half of your visitors arrive on public transportation. Should you then get a share of the transit companies' revenues just because they bring your visitors to the zoo? Without buses and trains, the zoo would have nothing but walk-up traffic. This analogy shows you the kind of logic publishers are using.
SPIEGEL: The zoo -- that is, the content -- can cost a lot of money
Schindler: which publishers then invest in search engine optimization in order to garner maximum attention. And just imagine if there were no Google. Would the individual publisher then be better off? No; on the contrary.
SPIEGEL: So, how important is journalistic content to Google?
Schindler: I don't want to offend anybody, but content from publishing companies is a fleetingly narrow slice.
SPIEGEL: Right now many publishers are considering charging readers for their online content. What does that mean for Google searches?
Schindler: It's in our interest for publishers to find successful business models. We would be the last people to tell them to do otherwise.
SPIEGEL: Internet guru Jeff Jarvis has discouraged publishers from putting their content behind a pay wall, because that prevents it from being found by Google.
Schindler: But the two aren't mutually exclusive -- that is, you can keep some kinds of content freely accessible and charge for others. And the latter could still be found on Google.
SPIEGEL: Do you still read newspapers, or do you get your information from Google News?
Schindler: Well, Google News shows only shows excerpts and links to the original articles. But I also enjoy reading newspapers.
SPIEGEL: As a token of solidarity?
Schindler: That's hardly necessary. I admit that I have no personal affinity for the printed page. But I'm prepared to pay for high-quality journalism, regardless of the delivery medium. Then again, not all of the journalistic content on the Net meets traditional journalistic standards of quality yet.
Interview conducted by Isabel Hülsen.