It’s Google’s World Now. We Just Live in It.

Google is less a media partner than a media wrangler.

You may have heard that Google just announced a plan to essentially make up for stealing the ad revenues of the many European media companies featured in its news search results.

As reported in The Financial Times, the “Don’t Be Evil” company created the Digital News Initiative to help media make better use of its own products. From a spokesman:

“I want to do better for the press, and I know we can do better for the press.”

Coincidentally, this move comes just as the antitrust case against the company heats up. And it is, for all intents and purposes, a PR move for the kings of search.

At the same time, as Gizmodo notes, it could be a good thing for journalism in that it will increase exposure for its paid media partners (The Guardian, Spain’s El Pais, etc.) and, by extension, the value of placements in those outlets. The problem? Companies like News Corp that didn’t agree to take part in the effort have almost certainly made things harder for themselves.

You play with Google or you don’t play at all.

From Aleksi Aaltonen, a self-proclaimed Google expert at Warwick Business School:

“Until now, content producers have largely bowed to a perception that they must be available through Google if they want to keep their readers, viewers and, indeed, businesses. But they are becoming increasingly desperate and over time the risk increases that major content producers learn how to do business without Google.

It is therefore not surprising that the company tries to engage content producers …to make sure they have less incentive to come up with a media ecosystem in which there would be no need for Google.”

Google’s status in Europe is very different than in America. For example, its much-covered “Right to Be Forgotten” initiative will almost certainly never happen in the US despite the fact that 9 in 10 Americans want the ability to scrub their own mistakes from the Internet.

But there will be no Google-free “media ecosystem.” The Digital News Initiative is a nice way of telling EU media that they need Google more than Google needs them.

The media world now answers to the rainbow letters. On the bright side, at least the company likes American press releases.