External traffic to Spanish news sites drops after Google News' exit

The effect of Google News' exit from Spain can already be felt

Google News made its scheduled departure from Spain on Tuesday, the effects of which were felt within hours of the move, according to the Web analytics company Chartbeat.

The search engine giant shut down Google News in Spain in response to legislation that would charge news aggregators a fee for linking to or posting excerpts of content from local media outlets. Under the legislation, aggregators who failed to pay the Assn. of Editors of Spanish Dailies the undisclosed fee would face a 600,000-euro (about $750,000) fine.

“As Google News itself makes no money … this new approach is simply not sustainable,” Richard Gingras, the head of Google News, wrote in a blog post. 

Chartbeat doesn’t track every Spanish news website, but it does track about 50, ranging from small media outlets to the country’s largest newspapers. Looking at this data, it saw a sharp decline in traffic from external links within hours of Google News’ closure, as much as 10% to 15% compared with a similar day before the closure.

Overall traffic to Spanish news sites didn’t fall by much, though.

“European sites typically have very strong homepage/direct audiences, which means that overall traffic numbers aren’t as dependent on specific external traffic sources as they are in, say, the U.S.,” Chartbeat’s chief data scientist, Josh Schwartz, said via email. “My instinct is that Spanish publishers will be fine if Google News stays down.”

Schwartz couldn’t reveal if any of the sites Chartbeat tracked had paywalls, nor could he comment on whether Google’s move would lead to an increase in subscriptions to sites with paywalls. But he did say in lieu of Google News, “folks who use [it] to get their media will move to other channels,” and “it’ll be really interesting to see what traffic looks like in the coming weeks.”

Twitter: @traceylien

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