Commentary

Newspaper Group Now Opposes Yahoogle Search Deal

Newspaper Association The World Association of Newspapers has added its voice to those who oppose the Google-Yahoo search deal, arguing that Google already wields too much power online.

"Google's ever-tightening grip on internet traffic, its unbridled use of online content, and its dominance in online advertising poses a very real threat to the continued viability of the independent content generation industry," the group writes.

The international organization, representing around 18,000 newspapers, argues that any decline in the competitive search landscape could potentially hurt its members, which depend on search engines for visitors. "To date, competition between both these two search companies has provided a necessary check to any potential market abuses," the organization writes.

For now, the current deal between Yahoo and Google would involve Google powering a small percentage of Yahoo's paid search ads. That arrangement in itself wouldn't significantly change the marketplace, but groups like the World Association of Newspapers clearly fear that the deal is just the prelude to a larger, more comprehensive partnership.

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And the prospect of Google growing yet more powerful is bringing out long-simmering resentments against the company.

Some content owners have long complained that Google's attempts to make all information searchable is fundamentally at odds with their right to control the material they've created. Other companies -- like Viacom, which is still suing YouTube for copyright infringement -- complain that Google is too cavalier about protecting their intellectual property.

Additionally, some Web site operators fear that Google can use its dominance in search to prevent visitors from reaching their site. That fear isn't entirely unjustified. Several years ago, KinderStart, an online directory geared towards parents, saw its traffic plummet after Google dropped its PageRank to zero, which effectively prevented it from appearing in the organic results.

KinderStart sued Google and lost -- but in some ways that puts Google in an even more difficult position now. The fact that the judge in Kinderstart endorsed Google's position seems to have stoked other Web publishers' wariness of the company.

Still, the Google-Yahoo deal still needs to be examined on its own terms. And it's hard to see how Yahoo's outsourcing of a small percentage of paid search ads would significantly change anyone's market position.

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