The Guardian Media Group has asked the Government to examine Google News and other content aggregators, claiming they contribute nothing to British journalism. In its written response to the preliminary Digital Britain report, The Guardian argues Google reaps the benefit of content from news sites without contributing anything towards their costs.

“We welcome the interim report’s focus on respect for IP and copyright, but believe there is a glaring omission from its examination of such issues: the negative effects of aggregators and search engines on the ability of and incentives for UK content providers to invest in quality content,” The Guardian’s submission states.

“We think the current market dynamic between content creators and search engines/aggregators is skewed heavily in the latter’s favour. This is not conducive to a healthy environment for content creation in the online world.”

The newspaper group argues that traffic generated by search engines doesn’t compensate for the cost involved in producing content: “The argument has traditionally been that search engines and aggregators provide players like with traffic in return for the use of our content, and this is enough to make the relationship symbiotic and equal,” the submission claims.

“However, there is a vast over-supply in the market of advertising inventory, and yields have come under severe downward pressure. As a result, the value of the traffic generated by search engines and aggregators has reduced significantly.”

The Guardian says content providers are faced with a catch-22: they can’t afford to withhold content from search engines, yet can’t feasibly charge consumers for it either, “not least because of the presence of the BBC and the vast quantities of free content it publishes on”

While The Guardian stops short of suggesting Google and others should be forced to pay for content, it does suggest the exploration of new models that “require fair acknowledgement of the value that our content creates, both on our own site (through advertising) and ‘at the edges’ in the world of search and aggregation.”

I’ve got the solution for The Guardian. Add the following to your Apache .htaccess file.

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} google\.com [NC]
RewriteRule .* - [F]

and in robots.txt:

User-agent: googlebot
Disallow: /

Otherwise figure out a way to work with Google to raise revenue. You offer your information for free. Google is a consumer like any other. If you don’t like what they do with the data you have the freedom to not serve them it in the first place.