Better use of technology can help newspapers find a more profitable business model online, Google's chief executive told publishers on Tuesday, as he said that trusted brands' professional reporting would rise above the "sewer" of online content.
The comments by Eric Schmidt mark Google's latest attempt to reassure news organisations that it can help them online rather than contribute to the collapse of advertising revenues that has precipitated the closure and bankruptcies of several of America's best-known local papers. A day after The Associated Press announced plans to pursue "legal and legislative remedies" against aggregators that use content from the newspaper consortium's members without properly rewarding them for it, Google emphasised its ability to drive traffic and advertising to news sites.
The AP's crackdown "doesn't appear to pertain to Google", since the search engine operator struck a partnership with the AP in 2007, Alexander Macgillivray, Google's associate general counsel for products and intellectual property, wrote on a company blog.
Mr Schmidt added that he was "a little confused" by the coverage of the AP's announcement, as it believed its "multimillion-dollar deal" with the consortium had been successful.
Addressing the Newspaper Association of America, Mr Schmidt voiced his support for the growing movement among publishers to find online revenue from sources other than advertising.
Much as the television industry encompassed free channels, cable subscriptions and pay-per-view content, news organisations should distribute some information freely, charge subscriptions for more specialist material, and develop better micropayment systems to charge a few cents for individual articles.
Mr Schmidt said newspapers needed to embrace technological innovation.
Online content was "still pretty unpleasant to read," he said.
"We need a new format for journalism."
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