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Google, the great destroyer of value?

Google destroys value in the traditional newspaper relationship with the reader, but does it also create value?

In a recent series entitled "The Future of Newspapers," Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson made some provocative (but insightful) comments about the Web's effect on journalism and the newspaper business.

One comment in particular stands out:

Google devalues everything it touches. Google is great for Google, but it's terrible for content providers, because it divides that content quantitatively rather than qualitatively. And if you are going to get people to pay for content, you have to encourage them to make qualitative decisions about that content.

Google Page Rank supposedly makes qualitative distinctions between content by measuring quantitative links to content, but in reality it doesn't work that way--not enough of the time, anyway.

I can see this from my own posts: sometimes I want to find a previous post of mine among the thousands that I've previously written. So I start digging through Google using keywords that I think will unearth the post. What I end up finding much of the time are my most popular posts related to those keywords, and often not the actual content I'm seeking. Given that some of my best content hasn't necessarily been the most linked-to content, I struggle to find it.

Even so, Thomson points out one area in which the Web actually has the potential to accelerate revenue potential for content, reminding his audience that the "beauty of the Web is that you can repurpose (content) many times" and therefore "generate revenue several times over." The key is figuring out how to monetize that content, repurposed or otherwise.

While I think advertising is one way to manage monetization of content, I think there's something more profound and more closely linked to the abundance of Web content. I don't know what that is, but I suspect someone smart will unearth it soon. It needs to take into account the short shelf-life of content--even good content--but also the critical importance of original source material, as Nick Carr recently wrote.

Perhaps we can figure out ways to put a premium on original content--journalism--and then pay lower rates for add-on commentary like this blog?

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.