Sam Zell: Comedian Extraordinare!

No, seriously. Sam Zell is going to save the Tribune and newspapers? I don’t think so. In this article in the Washington Post, Zell explains how it’s time to end Google’s “free ride” off newspaper content.

All I could think when I read that was, “He’s going to hurt Google’s bottom line by not allowing them access to Tribune content for free? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No, wait. He’s serious? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”

All joking aside, as Jason Calacanis points out, Mr. Zell has some serious facts wrong. Namely, that Google news is an optional program that doesn’t run ads on the articles so it doesn’t generate revenue for Google. Oh, and Google news actually drives traffic to the paper’s own sites, increasing their traffic… and that it’s already an optional program for newspapers.

What’s sad is the very cluelessness about new media that Mr. Zell apparently suffers from is what is killing newspapers right now. If this type of nonsense is what the Tribune papers have to look forward to from their new ownership, people at the Trib might want to get their resumes in order. Fast.

3 Comments so far

  1. Lucas (unregistered) on April 7th, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

    Before dismissing him, consider for a moment that the billionaire has some experience and insight of value. I actually think Sam Zell has a point, and I’ve explained why on my blog.

    One clarification of your post:

    Google News does make money from posting the news. And it does advertise on articles.

    By driving up links to newspaper Web sites, loads of remnant inventory is created on those sites. Since local advertisers have no interest in these one-off page views, then Google convinces these sites to use Google AdSense for filling the remnant space. This isn’t coincidence. Google understands the effect of driving up remnant inventory with Google News.

    All multi-billion dollar companies are in it for the money, Google included. They’re not featuring Google News prominently just to be nice.

  2. Dave! (unregistered) on April 8th, 2007 @ 1:02 am

    No, Lucas, you are incorrect. Google News posts summaries of the news articles from the respective paper sites ( with no ads. Clicking on the headline of an article takes you to the paper’s own website.

    Now, those participating news sites do feature Google Ads–and Google makes money off of them, of course–BUT so do the newspapers. Zell implied that Google was getting the content for free, and that’s just not accurate. Google shares ad revenue with them, just like if you put Google Ads on your website. It’s not a free ride–Google *is* paying the newspapers a “licensing fee” in the form of ad revenue they are sharing. People would never end up on those sites if it weren’t for Google, and to compensate the newspapers for the content, Google shares a portion of the ad revenue.

    Zell might know real estate, his fortune is a testament to that–but that does not mean he knows media. And when he makes comments that show he doesn’t even realize how newspapers are already partnering with Google to *make* money, well, that shows real ignorance about a business he just bought.

  3. pk (unregistered) on April 8th, 2007 @ 4:08 pm

    every web tech i know was talking about zell’s obvious misunderstanding. someone had to call the dude and tell him what he got wrong.

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