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Google Didn’t Kill News, Says Head of Google News

In a piece I wrote on tablets  over a week ago, I quoted Clay Shirky , a professor of Interactive Technologies, who said that the publishing industry is going away, being replaced by a button on your computer, or a simple software program.

Some people blame  Google News and the availability of free news sources as one of the reasons for the decline of print newspapers.

Well, Richard Gingras, the head of news products at Google, recent spoke at the Nieman Foundation at Harvard. Matt Stempeck a research assistant at the MIT Center for Civic Media liveblogged the speech, which can be accessed here .

According to Stempeck’s report, Gingras says newspapers are much to blame for their decline for not reacting aggressively enough to the change in reading habits and the decline of print advertising revenue – trends that seem to be accelerating .

He said newspapers can’t be afraid of acting  like Apple by cannibalizing their current products in favour of something shiny and new. Newspapers, however, have been very much behind major innovations and have for the most part been very non-entrepreneurial, he says.

Even some newer successes in the newspaper/news gathering industry like The Huffington Post, or the tablet newspaper The Daily, have been digital versions of newspapers, which Gingras said won’t be the final destination for the industry. (Jeff Jarvis, quoted in my piece here , would agree). Gingras suggests even blowing up  the concept of a website in general, saying “portals are played out” so the vertical model of the newspaper that’s all things to everyone is a dated concept. That point may have been illustrated while I was writing this post, as I heard about the resignation of Line Beauchamp through a Gazette reporter on Twitter, rather than The Gazette’s website.

Gingras also suggests that newspapers do more to compete with sites like Wikipedia, which create content entries and continually update them. He said newspapers should do the same with topic pages, which should be continually  updated by beat reporters.

Like Jarvis in my piece, Gingras says companies shouldn’t feel like the iPad is the saviour of the industry, and a way for them to get back the control over content that the Internet took away. He also says newspapers should be dedicating a lot more of their resources to their online products.

By Jason Magder
Published May 14, 2012

From The Montreal Gazette: