I Don’t Read Newspapers Anyway: Sam Zell Didn’t Count My Vote

April 7, 2007

There’s a bit of a stink that Sam Zell has suggested taking all the newspapers he’s in charge of (via Tribune Co, the company he just bought), pulling them out of Google, and licensing the articles. Tribune Co. includes the major newspapers Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. This is meant to be an end to the free ride enjoyed by the Internet, specifically Google. From the Washington Post:

“If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content, how profitable would Google be?” Zell said during the question period after his speech. “Not very.”

Despite the fact this statement doesn’t make much sense, I essentially could care less, since I don’t read those papers anyway. This move would just mean less AP stories for me to wade through on Google News and in Google Reader.

I see Zell’s statement as borne out of inertia. My one sympathetic thought: If I spent thirty years building a huge business and got rich, fat, and lazy – due to the easy money and security – I’d have a lot of inertia, too.

I’m reminded of all the hemming and hawing over Ford and GM. So Americans aren’t buying American-made cars. Then build a better car. If something in your organization is keeping you from building that car, fix it. Don’t blame the consumer or the companies sending customers to your door.

This is my roundabout way of saying: Create a newspaper worth paying for. This move against the entire Internet does nothing in that regard. Google built a Prius while the newspapers are still building SUVs.

Newspapers have tons of archived content, talented reporters, and a user base, many things the next Web 2.0 start up doesn’t have. There are some forward thinking ideas out there.

So it’s commonly said customers vote with their dollars. I already have. It’s frustrating to read that Sam Zell haven’t counted my vote, yet. And this certainly doesn’t inspire me to start reading newspapers.

Additional Reading: Lucas Grindley, Mathewingram, Somewhat Frank


  1. don’t feel too bad Jason .. they didn’t ask for my vote either but like you it didn’t stop me from adding my 2cents to the noise :)

  2. Dave says:

    Alright Kaneshiro, I’ve seen you make this mistake before and now, as a good friend, I’m calling you on it. The sentiment is “couldn’t care less” not “could care less” (the latter is what you wrote, but presumably not what you meant). For a brief refresher, here is a link to the ever useful, not-referenced-frequently-enough caring spectrum diagram:


    And now I insert the obligatory smiley so you know I’m not a complete dick.


    Feel free to rip my grammar anytime. I know I probably spelled something wrong in this post too. ;-)

    Oh, and re: the topic in question, if a newspaperman thinks that Google owes it’s mammoth revenue numbers on newspaper articles/content, that alone tells you all you need to about why these guys just don’t get it. Unbelievable.

    There are really very few publications with broad appeal/mass circulation that people are willing to pay for. WSJ is one. I’m sure there are others, but I can’t think of them right now.

  3. webomatica says:

    Thanks for helping meet my goal of being a better writer.

    In terms of media, seems like everything is moving to the “ala carte” model.