Cuban: Print Must Vanquish Digital ‘Vampires’

Content aggregators and search engines are vampires, and newspapers are the chesty blondes who fall victim to their charms — and ultimately get bitten.

That’s the basic assessment of the traditional media business’ approach to the Internet, according to Mark Cuban. During a keynote address today at the AlwaysOn OnMedia NYC 2010 Conference, the HDNet president/CEO and famed provocateur called for newspapers and magazines to fight back against sites that link to their content.

“Everybody wants to take your content,” said the Dallas Mavericks owner before a room full of media executives gathered at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York. That’s not going to change, “unless you put a stake through their gosh darn hearts.”

Cuban particularly called out Google as a Web giant that continues to reap benefits off of the valuable content that traditional media companies produce. “Google is a vampire, and you run scared,” he said. “There is no reason to be indexed in Google.”

For too long, Cuban said, newspaper and magazines have viewed traffic to their Web sites the same way that stores view customers coming through the door — and have been fearful of turning down any opportunity for more traffic. Yet, he said, readers who find headlines via Google rarely convert to traffic, and publishers have a hard time monetizing that traffic. “You haven’t gotten anything back except that you’ve turned into zombies,” Cuban said.

Plus, in his mind, Google reaps the branding benefit of that content when consumers access it through a search or through Google News. “Whose brand do you think [users] have in their minds?” he asked.

Cuban dared newspapers to stop linking their stories to Google and to police other aggregators — advocating the position put forth recently by News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch. He said that traditional media companies have nothing to lose, since Google and others will always take them back. And they might find their content being seen as more valuable.

“Show some balls,” he said. “If you turn your neck to a vampire, they are [going to] bite. But at some point the vampires run out of people’s blood to suck.”

Beyond the scary vampire metaphor, Cuban also touched on Apple’s upcoming iPad device. He urged content producers not to wait until consumers adopted the device en masse, while also warning against using the device as simply another distribution outlet for the same old content.

That’s been the mistake made by publishers who have embraced Amazon’s Kindle, which takes pains to reproduce the book-reading experience. “The Kindle is a first-generation product that has no future,” he said. “It just re-creates what you already do.”

See also: “CLIO Video Interview With Mark Cuban”