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Study conducted by TRG – The Reach Group GmbH and Sistrix GmbH
For the topic of ancillary copyright, TRG and Sistrix have examined a database of over 1.5 billions search results for identifying possible connections between Google and press publishers. The result shows: Google realizes its main business without the usage of press publishers’ content.
During the recent weeks, the debate about a possible ancillary copyright is being conducted passionately again after first drafts of a possible legal regulation were presented. The management consultancy TRG – The Reach Group GmbH provides current data to enable all participants to lead a sound discussion about the effects of the implementation of an ancillary copyright. For this matter, TRG joined forces with analysis provider Sistrix to raise and analyze key figures with a high degree of validity for this topic and which are capable of weighting the pros and cons about ancillary copyright to make it measureable to an even greater extend.
Ancillary copyrights have been existing for a long time. The copyright law controls demands for many different works and their usage. Most people in Germany are aware of institutions like GEMA (German authors’ and musicians’ association protecting their copyright) which carries out the exercise of the rights of composers, lyricists or publishers of music.
In 2009, a public debate came up for the first time in order to expand that protection to the news- and press publishers. The BDZV (a German association of newspaper publishers) demanded that press companies need to defend themselves against the free exploitation of their publications on the internet. Two years later, chancellor Merkel remarked that an ancillary copyright is not only mentioned in the coalition agreement, but is already in preparation. A possible concept for the expansion of the copyright law is to be found on the internet and is stated to be available to the various ministries.
Press publishers – the supporters of an ancillary copyright – take the point that the existing copyright law had a gap. Press publishers feel especially exploited by search engines as these and other aggregators placed advertisements next to parts of the digital press releases and thus earned money with those.
Opponents of an expanded ancillary copyright argue that press publishers could control very well if they were listed in search engines or if these search engines shall show a short text – a so-called snippet – of their content. Furthermore, it is claimed that press publishers may only try to support their “non-functioning digital business model” by an ancillary copyright. A quoted reduction of information by the disappearance of news publications was furthermore stated to be out of question as there naturally is a high redundancy of press releases in Germany.
To equip this debate with numerical data, TRG – The Reach Group GmbH (www.trg.de/en) has collaborated with the analysis supplier Sistrix GmbH (www.sistrix.de) and evaluated a vast number of data. A special focus was imposed on the validity of the raised figures, especially with regards to capability of weighting the pros and cons of an ancillary copyright and thus make the topic measureable to a greater extend.
Over 15,000,000 of the most common search inquiries, which Sistrix monitors weekly on Google for their toolbox, served as a basis for this study. As up to a depth of the first 100 search hits per search phrase were evaluated, over 1.5 billions search hits arose from this and build a solid base from which the following figures were drawn.
To identify who may be classified as a press publisher in the study, all domains being linked to on Google News Germany in July 2012 were considered. These 1,200+ domains represent a majority of all press publishers in Germany. Among these Google News publishers, some domains have been included although they were not identified as typical press publisher: examples are WordPress.com, Blogspot.com, Idealo.de or MyVideo.de. These domains do have Google News fade-ins, but would not benefit from an ancillary copyright in the end. Yet, it was important that the meaning of the press publishers would be assessed as rather too high than too low. All big German press publishers and publisher pages are considered in the list.
In the first instance, it was identified what proportion of the 1.5 billion search hits belonged to a domain of the over 1,200 Google News publishers, which resulted in about 10.6%. Vice versa: 89.4% of all search results at Google.de do not belong to a domain, which can also be found on Google News.
The proportion of press publishers in the Google.de web search thus seems to be relatively small. In addition, the publisher pages influence is further reduced due to the circumstance that large-scale domains like Idealo.de or Immobilienscout24.de are –as mentioned above- are included. These portals run own news offers about their special niche topics. When excluding five of these clearly non-press domains all the remaining press publishers only amount in a 7.5% share of the viewed search hits.
To go further into detail: The greatest part of the traffic, the clicks, the marketing and thus eventually turnover is made on Google’s 1st search result page. How does the distribution of press and non-press look like here? The answer: Very similar! Only 10% of the results on Google’s 1st result page are taken by press publisher domains. Excluding the largest 5 non-press domains, the share is reduced to merely 8.3%.
Already in 2009, TRG found out that the part of the press publisher domains makes up only a small part of the variety of the Google index results. At that time a smaller list of domains – only the signers of the “Hamburg Declaration” – were considered. In the current study, the list has grown significantly. Therefore, a conclusion if publisher web pages make up a greater part of Google search hits in contrast to the first TRG study in this matter three years ago, cannot be drawn.
The discussion about ancillary copyright takes place mainly because of earning money. For Google earning money means Google Adwords on the search result pages. Search engines – especially Google – are blamed for exploiting the press publishers in this topic. Thus, it was asked how many of the 15,000,000 inquired search phrases also are supplied with Google Adwords advertisements. And Google sells heavily: 55.6% of the search phrases also evoke at least one Adwords advertisement – in nearly all cases on the 1st search result page Meaning on the other hand, that Google does not earn money with 44.4% of the search phrases employed in this study.
It furthermore seemed to be exciting to bring the press publishers’ domains and Google’s money-making into a correlation. On 23.8% of all search phrases, a press publisher content is being placed as well as at least one Adwords advertisement. That may sound like above-average correlations. But as before large e-commerce domains like Idealo.de have been considered again, as they are listed as publishers with Google.
For this reason further details were examined: All search phrases had been counted again and it was asked how many search phrases with 1st page results have at least one Adwords advertisement but also at least 5 results of press publishers filling the pages.
That would have led to the conclusion that Google positions advertisements especially in the surroundings of press releases. The analysis showed however that this was only the case in 1.1% of all search phrases.
In the end, it was measured how important the sum of all rankings of the over 1,200 publisher web pages was on Google.de. This sum has additionally been weighted according to ranking and search volume (Sistrix Visibility Index). The higher this index value, the bigger is the expected amount of traffic, which a domain gets from Google. Wikipedia.org – as the domain with the highest Sistrix Visibility Index in Germany – reaches a value of nearly 8,000 index points. Idealo.de reaches nearly 750 points and Spiegel.de nearly 410 Sistrix points. The sum of all Google news publishers amounts in 10,300 Sistrix points for visibility. As a comparison: The top 100 domains in the Sistrix Visibility Index show, when added up, nearly 30,000 visibility points. In total there are many millions of domains included in the 1.5 billion search hits of the study. Again, it does not seem so as if the Google.de search hits would mainly base on press releases. By the way: one in 7 press publishers books paid advertisements via Google Adwords.
Yes – Google does earn money in Germany. And that is much more than press publishers do it on the internet so far. Google reaches sales worth billions in Germany every year and overall had in recent years an exciting yield on turnover of over 25%. To a great extend, the Google sales result from the Adwords business. Either from the own search result pages but also to quite an extend from the Google Adsense program, which web page owners can implement on their own pages for money-making purposes, too. Most press publishers also integrated Google Adsense on their own domains for making money like other web page owners. Google has established an amazing business model, which scales and, at the moment, works better than the complex creation of news, quality content and profound reports. And yet: Google earns the vast majority of its money in Germany without the works of press publishers.
Google generates a higher turnover through clicks on search phrases like “comparison of electricity providers”, “credit” or “cheap flights” than with typical press related search terms such as “USA election campaign”, “2012 Olympics” or “Euro rescue”. Most press publishers can primarily be found for search phrases having an informative character and not a transactional one. In those cases mainly e-commerce suppliers are listed.
Different to the discussion three years ago, there is no tendency towards a collective resignation from Google at this time. In 2009 there was no convincing majority in search hits – it would have been far “worse” for Google, when Wikipedia.org had left Google. Today press publishers want to position a legal agreement, by which they are remunerated, when search hits of a press publisher are displayed. Nearly all press publishers receive a two-digit percentage of their visits via Google.de – some large-scale news pages even over 40% of their visits.
It is rather difficult to find valid figures showing that presently a great injustice against press publishers is going on in the Google.de index. Unfair, however, it seems to be for press publishers that Google earns billions with an automatism without running editorial offices. Then again, here lie exactly the chances to learn. In the end, the users may have to pay for possible subsidies to press publishers forced to by law. But maybe users prefer to pay voluntarily for the press product of their choice instead of a search result, which appearance cannot be influenced by them. At present, nobody has to think about either choice: almost all German news pages provide their current news on the internet free of charge. Anew every day. And there they can be found by man and machines likewise.
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Sistrix GmbH, based in Bonn, is a leading supplier of search analytic software. By means of a huge database, historical and current data can be recognized and analyzed in all depth for SEO and SEA activities. By that customers receive insights into current trends and can thus make well-founded decisions. http://www.sistrix.de/