German publisher realises Google calls the shots

history-of-print-16th-century-printing-companyGerman publisher Axel Springer has just worked out what the rest of the world already knew – Google controls the press.

Springer has scrapped a move to block Google from running snippets of articles from its newspapers, saying that the experiment had caused traffic to its sites to plunge.

Traffic flowing from clicks on Google search results fell by 40 percent and traffic delivered via Google News had plummeted by 80 percent in the past two weeks.  This mimicked what happened when Google changed its algorithm and destroyed many tech news sites overnight.

A two-week-old experiment to restrict access by Google to some of its publications had caused web traffic to plunge for these sites.

He discovered, somewhat belatedly that publishers no longer decide who sees their content, it is more or less decided when Google decides who will appear in its search items.

Chief Executive Mathias Doepfner said his company would have “shot ourselves out of the market” if it had continued with its demands for the US firm to pay licensing fees. Springer had sought to restrict Google’s use of news from four of its top-selling brands:,, and, the company said.

Springer, which publishes Europe’s top-selling daily newspaper Bild, said Google’s grip over online audiences was too great to resist, a double-edged compliment meant to ram home the publisher’s criticism of what it calls Google’s monopoly powers.

Publishers in countries from Germany and France to Spain have pushed to pass new national copyright laws that force Google and other web aggregators to pay licensing fees – dubbed the Google Tax – when they publish snippets of their news articles.

Under German legislation that came into effect last year, publishers can prohibit search engines and similar services from using their news articles beyond headlines. Last week, Spain’s upper house passed a similar law giving publishers an “inalienable” right to levy such licensing fees on Google.

The only problem is that if they do that, they end up cutting their own throats.