Google Hires BBC News Exec To Woo Publishers

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is hiring BBC News’ head of development and rights, Madhav Chinnappa, to its partnerships team for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, it tells paidContent:UK, “with a specific focus on helping publishers get the most out of Google News“.

It’s a new post, and a sign Google is increasingly keen to dampen increasing scepticism, from some newspaper publishers, regarding its attitude to content, and instead come to amicable arrangements.

And Chinnappa is one of two BBCers Google’s hired in the last couple of years with related aims – in 2008, the editor of BBC Two’s Newsnight, Peter Barron, joined to head communications and policy efforts for its north-west Europe operations.

A former business manager with Associated Press Television News and UBM, India-born, Texas-educated Chinnappa has led the brokering of agency contracts and external commercial income for BBC News since 2003, and has been with the BBC since 2001.

Google’s European partnerships team is headed by Santiago de la Mora and has previously struck news, book and library partners. But Chinnappa will be Google’s first person in Europe focusing solely on Google News partnerships.

A brouhaha over Google News was amplified last winter amid speculation that News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). would block Google from crawling its sites and that it would instead take money from Bing for the privilege (News Corp.’ Times sites have blocked search crawlers, but the Bing prospect was a chimera)…

Hostility toward Google is by no means at fever pitch, but publisher interest in loyal audiences rather than transient searchers, which nevertheless account for a significant percentage of publisher traffic, is increasing…

Feelings were polarised at a panel debate in which I participated at the Frontline club last week (video here), in which Mirror Group Newspapers digital director Matt Kelly told fellow panelist Barron: “I’d rather have one click from Twitter than 100 from Google.”

Kelly, who has spun off’s soccer and celebs coverage in to two separate niche sites, repeated the idea he has been floating for the last year with gusto, that publishers should eschew low-value search traffic and instead create sites that cultivate audience affinity in the same way their print products used to.

Moving beyond the issue of whether Google “steals” news content – which Google must keep a lid on lest a can of worms be opened that would threaten its entire search business – it’s this issue of loyalty which may be the key one on which Google must meet publishers.

But Google, at least in public, has been using the same stock responses to publishers’ concerns for the last year now. It was a response which Barron also repeated last week – that it sends a billion-clicks-a-month business opportunity to news publishers, yielding £5 billion for publishers, and FastFlip may help, too.