Google News comes out of beta

Now it gets interesting. Google News has finally come out of beta (see Battelle and Search Engine Watch).

So now we can have the row I’ve always wanted to have. How much is all that juicy content on Google News worth to Google, and how much is a presence on Google News worth to content publishers? How transparent will that relationship be?

I don’t anticipate a cavalcade of publishers crashing down Google’s doors and insisting that their content be removed from Google News. What I do expect is that, over the medium term, publishers are going to get savvier and savvier about what their presence on Google is worth to them – in terms of audience, and in terms of traffic which can be effectively monetised. We’ve not got the tools to be able to measure that, although we probably haven’t got the time – online publishers are still leaner than their offline brethren.

But as ad revenues grow, expect more and more data miners to be employed, because that’s how you really make your advertising effective. And one day at a major online publisher somewhere in the world, a data miner is going to go into their boss’ office and say “you know what? I’ve run the numbers, and it looks like we might be better off outside the Googlesphere than inside it. The people who come to us from Google, well, they just don’t click on ads, and our research shows they don’t even notice them. But the people who come in through our front page, our core audience, they do click on ads, and they’re just subsidising this other traffic.” And the data-miner’s manager, who’s at a crossroads in his career and wants to make a big statement, looks out of the window and makes a decision. To opt out of Google.

Sure, this is stupid. It probably won’t happen. But as ads start to appear on Google News (as I assume they’ll do as it comes out of beta) this discussions are bound to start. PaidContent reckons ads in Google News won’t “create as much heat” because of things like Topix.net which are already doing this. But those things are actually quite controversial, and, well, this is Google.