About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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« Not-For-Profit: Just Say No | Main | Asking People to Pay for News: What He Said »

February 03, 2009


Tim Burden


Your number (20 - 30%) for traffic from Google is “at least”. On a website that is properly SEO and has deep archives that number is more than doubled, as it was on a community newspaper website that I developed.

Osnos doesn’t understand what news companies sell. I know I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but it bears repeating. It’s not newspapers, its not news, its not content, and its not information. It’s readership. Why these guys continue to miss this fact boggles my mind.

Job number one for any news site should be to maximize traffic. The people who do websites in other industries have recognized this for years. News sites constantly want to fight Google, fight incoming links from competitors (ahem...Gatehouse), fight readers by putting up paywalls, and on and on.

Develop huge traffic, develop a readership, and sell that to advertisers. Duh.

Danny Sanchez

Google is not responsible for the newspaper industry's woes, but make no mistake, it has fast become a competitor to media sites.

Firstly, Google News may not carry advertising positions on it, but it drives about $100 million in search-related revenue funneled through the site, according to a Google VP. I wrote about it back in July here: http://journalistopia.com/2008/07/29/google-news-drives-100-million-in-revenue-to-google-says-vp/

Additionally, Google controls an enormous percentage of online advertising revenue, lacks transparency in its revenue sharing to publishers and continues to create products that carry traditional media site content, such as the hosting of AP articles, its Knol site with articles, its hosting of travel content on Google Earth, circumventing news site's search boxes with its own and so on.

There are host of issues that have caused the news industry's situation: economic climate, lack of innovation, huge debt, etc. However, neither is Google a purely benevolent aggregator sending tons of merry traffic our way while newspaper sites take it to the bank.

Mark Potts

Thanks for the comment, Danny. In other words, Google is a competitor. What a refreshing change in an industry that's largely been built on monopoly. I've written before that Google and Yahoo control more than half of local online advertising spending. That's disgraceful--and the shame lies entirely at the feet of newspapers, for failing to adequately pursue local online ad opportunities and letting Google and Yahoo muscle onto their turf. Newspapers have no one to blame but themselves.

Carl Schoenleber

I hate to argue any of your points since I agree 100% with your opinion on Osnos and his like minded drones. However Google does display ads on news search - http://zi.ma/GoogleNews


Hi Mark,

Just curious what your thoughts are about the .mobi extension? I recently acquired Sedona.mobi and intend to develop it into an moblie ready quick news and info directory for Sedona, Arizona, taking content from my Sedona.biz news website. I think more and more people will begin accessing content via their iphone etc. and that content needs to be formatted for a phone.

The question is, will .mobi take off? I understand that a .com website could be set up to tell if the request is coming from a cellphone and then redirect the request to a phone-friendly format on the server. This suggests that a .mobi may not have value.

However, a consortium consisting of Google, Microsoft, Nokia and others have established the .mobi and they are motivated to support it because it is profitable for them if people start buying .mobi extensions. Also, a .mobi extension by its very nature ensures a mobile friendly format.

Will Google give .mobi preference for mobile searches? Will Nokia make it so when someone types in "Sedona" in their phone browser's address line, Sedona.mobi comes up?

I think this is a topic worth covering.


Mark Potts

Carl: Basically, I'm skeptical of the value of any URL that isn't a .com address. Indeed, for many sites, .com is a signficant part of the brand. Unless I see some evidence of major (or any!) uptake on the use of .mobi addresses, I think they're a gimmick. Most mobile-enabled sites I encounter are .com-based, sometimes with a specialized prefix to the standard address (e.g. mobile.washingtonpost.com).

That doesn't mean you shouldn't register a .mobi address to protect an associated .com domain and be prepared in case .mobi somehow does become the Next Big Thing. But .com is the gold standard, and the way the vast majority of visitors are going to find you for years to come.


If newspapers really wanted google to stop "infringing their copyright", they could easily block google's bot from crawling their site.

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