Google's Schmidt: In the Eye of the Beholder

Eric Schmidt gave at least four different speeches yesterday to an equal number of publisher association meetings in four different cities all named Washington, D.C. At least that's what you'd gather given the remarkably different takes on his comments.

But that's to be expected: we all know reporters never get the story right.

The Wall Street Journal's coverage of the remarks came under the headline, "Google's Chief Asks Newspapers to Test Models." Appropriately enough, the coverage focused on the same issues preoccupying News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, and what the WSJ reporters heard would have been music to their boss's ears:

"The speech Tuesday marked Mr. Schmidt's first appearance before a gathering of top newspaper executives, many of whom have expressed growing concern that their content has become a source of revenue for Google, even as their industry's business model continues to crumble as readers gravitate to online news."
"With ad markets suffering amid the global economic downturn, observers in the newspaper industry are revisiting the controversial issue of charging online subscriptions for newspaper content."

Online subscriptions, yeah, that's the ticket!, repurposed by the Washington Post, found Schmidt's remarks on -- guess what? -- repurposing content to be the main attraction:

"Schmidt came down [hard] on concerns about intellectual property and fair use: "From our perspective, we look at this pretty thoroughly and there is always a tension around fair use ? I would encourage everybody, think in terms of what your reader wants. These are ultimately consumer businesses and if you [hack] off enough of them, you will not have any more.""

The New York Times also dwelled a lot on the fair use issue, but then focused on Schmidt's remarks about personalizing content and making it accessible to mobile devices.

"Mr. Schmidt encouraged publishers to create more personalized news products that could be delivered effectively on the Web, cellphones and other devices."

Personalized news... check! Cell phones... check! The NYT does all that! Isn't the NYT great?

Then you have Wired, which isn't a newspaper and thus has the luxury of actually thinking about stuff and creating original content. Their take on Schmidt's remarks:

"Schmidt said [users not clicking through on a headline] was a content problem -- and thus, not his. Google's delivery of bit-sized morsels is not much different than radio, he said, a medium which did nothing to destroy any other part of the news industry. Teasers entice, he said: "Oh -- that's something interesting I want to know more about.""
"Not said: Or, if you can kiss off a story in 100 words, readers don't need 500 more."

Well, not said by Schmidt at any rate.

But his remarks were beautiful in the eyes of each beholder.