Google Says the New York Times Is Irrelevant

No, Eric Schmidt hasn't been dissing the New York Times, but his search engine has. According to a Wired article, the New York Times, and other mainstream media outlets, never ranks very high in searches about various timely news topics. If you've been following along for the last several years, you know why: the pay curtain.

Of course, like many things about the business operations of a traditional publisher that has ventured online, the reasons are simple but the solutions complicated. The New York Times requires that its users register, which makes it difficult for search engines to spider its content. Perhaps an even more impenetrable barrier is the Times' paid archive. Because it stows material more than a week old behind an archive wall, you have to cough up $3 per article. Since few are willing to pay for content they can get free elsewhere, search engines, which often base results on relevancy (read: popularity), will continue to dis the Times -- as well as other media sites that make you register or pay for old news (The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal).
From Wired News: Searching for The New York Times
Referenced Thu Jul 15 2004 14:29:50 GMT-0600

Of course, the Times could fix this. They have a huge archive. Opening it up would result in the creation of a site that is very relevant, heavily linked, and widely read. They'd get influence in spades. The pay curtain accounts for only 2 to 3% of the Times' revenue, so it wouldn't even be that expensive. Had to let go of that revenue when its in the bag, however.

At present, the offline sides of newspapers make considerably more than the online versions. For example, the Times rakes in $11 per reader in the online world and $900 per reader offline. Guess what they pay attention to. The problem is that the $900 per reader may not be sustainable as more and more readers turn to online delivery of news. That presents a business problem of incredible complexity to the Times and other print publications.

I doubt that print media is going to take this lying down. Watch for them to try to redefine how search engines work in order to support their distribution model in much the same way that the RIAA is trying to use DMCA to redefine copyright to support their outdated distribution model for music.