Google News readers don't read the news

Publishing research company Outsell has posted a report which says nearly half of people looking for news on Google's news site just scan the headlines without clicking through to the source.

With a row brewing between a number of major traditional news providers and the likes of Google, the report is bound to add weight to the argument that web-based news outlets are taking liberties.

Publishing magnates are arguing that Internet news aggregators like Google are linking to stories without providing advertising revenue, whereas Google says it's doing its bit by driving over 100,000 users per minute to the newspapers' own web sites.

"Among the aggregators, Google’s effect on the newspaper industry is particularly striking," said the report's author. "Though Google is driving some traffic to newspapers, it's also taking a significant share away. A full 44 per cent of visitors to Google News scan headlines without accessing newspapers' individual sites."

The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times already have pay-as-you-read models in place, but savvy Internet users have worked out that searching for the relevant headline on Google usually delivers the goods without having to pony up the cash.

"Newspapers that see paid online content as a panacea are in for a rude awakening," says the report's author Ken Doctor (now there's a man doing the wrong job). "Only 10 per cent of news users are willing to pay for a print newspaper subscription to gain online access. Seventy-five per cent say they’d turn to a different source for local online news if their newspapers required a paid subscription."

Outsell, Inc.’s third annual News Users’ research predicts continued steep drops in US newspapers’ print circulation as consumers continue to gravitate toward the Internet for news. The firm forecasts 3.5 percent annual declines in both daily and Sunday circulation, leading to a low of 43 million Sunday newspaper readers by 2012, compared to more than 62 million in the early 1990s.

The New York Times confirmed it will begin charging for content for content in the future, as will many of those in Murdoch's News International stable.