Google is “hugely dangerous” and is one of the major preoccupations of News Corp, according to the editor-in-chief of Times Online.
Anne Spackman, speaking as part of a panel about the future of newspapers at the Society of Editors conference, said “the number one topic of conversation at News Corp is Google.”
“Its move into DNA is a massive threat and I wonder whether we will all start feeling that they are behaving a bit too much like big brother,” she said.
Talking afterwards to Press Gazette Spackman said: “Google now affects everything we do online”.
Because it drives such an enormous proportion of search traffic, newspapers are paying careful attention to optimising their sites for Google. This means that sites’ traffic is highly susceptible to minor changes to the way Google’s search algorithm works. She noted that when Google tweaked its search algorithm last month, WashingtonPost.com was one of several major sites whose pager rank temporarily dropped. Google also controls a large amount of advertising online, particularly since its acquisition this year of online advertising firm DoubleClick.
Spackman said she expects local newspapers would be the next to face the effects of the search giant as its Google Maps service transforms the market for local listings and advertising.
• Also responding to the question about how newspapers should deal with online aggregators, Mail on Sunday editor Peter Wright said: “To get traffic on a web site you have to publish free and encourage as many people as possible to read it. We encourage people like Drudge to aggregate our content because it means more people are see it and come back to browse the site. Whether that is the correct answer I can’t tell you, but it’s what we’re doing a the moment.”