Google readies new markup rules for European news publishers

Google readies new markup rules for European news publishers


Google is getting ready to change how it presents content in search results pages in France and throughout Europe. This follows on the heels of the new European Copyright Directive that first rolled out in France.

The Copyright Directive is intended to generate fees for media publishers whose content appears in search results and on news aggregation sites. However Google has declined to pay those licensing fees and has instead changed the way it will show content unless news publishers explicitly give it permission to display longer snippets and images.

Publishers need to opt-in. The company previously said, in an originally French blog post, “When the French law comes into force, we will no longer display an overview of the content in France for European press publishers unless the publisher has made the arrangements to indicate that it is his wish. This will be the case for search results from all Google services.”

Following the French ratification of the EU Copyright Directive, Google created new markup, meta-tags and webmaster guidelines to enable publishers to customize their content previewed in search results. Google explains in a new European press publisher FAQ that it “will not display text snippets or image thumbnails for affected European press publications in France, unless the website has implemented meta tags to permit search previews.” The post answers a wide range of questions, including who must opt-in to show longer previews and what type of control publishers can exercise over the presentation of content snippets.

Giving up on 8 billion clicks? In the post Google reiterates its policy and position around the Copyright Directive: “[W]e don’t accept payment from anyone to be included in organic search results and we don’t pay for the links or preview content included in search results. When you use the new markup tools, you consent to the use of that preview content without payment, either to or from Google.”

Google asserts that snippets and preview content make users more likely to click. “Google Search sends 8 billion clicks to European publishers every month, each of which represents a real economic opportunity for publishers through advertising or subscriptions.”

If news publishers decline to opt-in to the display of snippets, Google will show a stripped down version of publisher content by default — what one might call “bare links” with no copy or images, incomplete story titles and site titles without context.

Why we should care. News publishers that decline to opt-in and permit the display of longer content snippets will likely cede traffic to rivals. Similarly restrictive copyright rules in Germany and Spain several years ago prompted Google to pull back on snippets, which caused a significant decline in search traffic to news sites in those countries.

European news publishers will soon face a significant dilemma: demand licensing fees and have their SERP footprints radically reduced or cooperate with Google and give up any potential copyright revenue. With its opt-in approach, Google has effectively nullified the licensing-revenue dreams of publishers who lobbied for the passage of the Copyright Directive.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.

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