It’s been a while since I blogged anything (damned sinus infection), so here are a few things, in an effort to begin catching up.

The first is what may be the surest sign of the current state of newspapers as a business. From the Shaping the Future of the Newspaper blog:

The Newspaper Association of America, which represents U.S. newspaper publishers, has called off its annual Mid-Year Media Review, a presentation for financial analysts, due to low attendance numbers, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Analysts will still get the newspaper news through the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecommunications Conference, but the companies will no longer have a newspaper-only platform.

(Related: Goldman: Newspaper Industry Performance Likely to Stay ‘Anemic’ In ’08, at Editor & Publisher.)

Secondly, there have been a couple of recent Google-related posts. One, from Mathew Ingram, dishes some scorn on Belgium newspaper publishers for their $70-million-or-so lawsuit aimed at Google. In Belgium: Ignoring reality since 1830, he writes:

As far as I can tell, Google’s use of excerpts from news stories meets (or should meet) every test of “fair use” imaginable — except perhaps in Belgium — especially since the company makes no money from advertising on Google News pages. On top of all that, linking enhances the value of newspaper content by exposing it to a broader audience. Belgium’s newspapers should be thanking Google, not suing it.

The other post was from Kirk LaPointe, Vancouver Sun ME. Titled Google: The true enemy of journalism, analyst says, it includes this praise for a recent Business Week story:

Someone is actually saying clearly that certain precepts — that journalism can be paid for by adjacent Google ads and display — are “idiotic.” And someone is also saying that Google is scraping a lot of the necessary funds away. And that Google is essentially taking a free press and monetizing it largely for itself.

I’m not going to reprise the arguments for and against Google and its impact on newspapers. That’s a debate that’s been bubbling along quite nicely for several years without much from me. I only really have one thing to say: the debate is rather pointless, given that Google isn’t going away. Nor, given its heft, is it likely to radically change the way it does business. Newspapers need to get on with the task of carving out their own online value proposition. (Okay, I guess that’s two things.)

(Okay, one more thing: the use of “free press” to defend the business practices of newspapering, as opposed to the reporting and the commentary, has always bothered me.)

The third thing is a story that’s had a lot of play: secret negotiations involving Canada and other countries that would give border guards tremendous powers to search laptops and iPods for “illegal” content, be the sole judges of whether content was legal or not, have the right to seize devices, etc. I’m going to point to Mathew Ingram again, because his piece, Drop that mouse! It’s the copyright cops, sums up what’s been reported rather nicely.

I’m not going to rant and rave, just report the words that popped into my head when I first read about this: police state. Overreaction? I don’t think so.

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