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Google's Schmidt nixes idea of buying newspaper

CEO Eric Schmidt confirms to the Financial Times that Google had considered acquiring a paper, but has since ruled it out as too expensive and fraught with liabilities.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt confirmed speculation that his company had been considering the possibility of acquiring a newspaper, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

CEO Eric Schmidt Google

However, in the same interview, Schmidt quickly added that the company has since decided against the idea because potential acquisition targets are either too expensive or have too many liabilities. Schmidt said Google was "trying to avoid crossing the line" between technology and content and was instead working with struggling publishers to make their Web sites "work better" for online advertising, according to the story.

Schmidt also dismissed what he called "clever ideas" suggested about sheltering newspapers in nonprofit structures through the foundation. "They are unlikely to happen without some massive, massive set of corporate bankruptcies," Schmidt told the Financial Times.

Two reports earlier this month--by Fortune and The Washington Post--suggested that Google has been talking to both The New York Times and the Post about possible areas of collaboration, or even investment. Schmidt's statements to the Financial Times suggest it was more the former than the latter.

Of course, given the contentious history between Google and traditional news outlets, which have never liked the idea of the search giant making money off their content without paying for it, the idea of Google buying a paper had some scratching their heads. Then again, Google does have deep pockets and a keen interest in the health of the news business when it comes to generating online content.

Is anyone else reminded of the adage, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"