How Significant is the Removal of Google News for Spanish News Sites?

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It seems like the EU is going out of its way to make Google align with what they think is the correct way to do internet search. It started when the EU asked Google to add competitors to their results whenever they promote their own search products. Then the EU continued with the Right to be Forgotten and the most recent demand with what is referred to as ‘the Google tax’, basically asking Google to pay for aggregating news results in their SERP on Google News in Spain. This is based on copyright laws.

The first reaction I had when this law was passed – and I’m sure many I wasn’t alone – was that Google would probably remove Google News from Spain, eliminating the problem. So I wasn’t surprised when it actually happened.

What did surprise me was Spain’s response: news publishers in the country are demanding their government to ‘force’ Google to return Google News Results and comply with the ‘Google tax’.

All economic, moral and logical aspects of this matter aside, I was curious to see what all the fuss is about. What do Spanish news portals have to lose now that Google News is out of the picture?

To answer this question, I looked at stats regarding the News and Media industry in Spain. I reviewed data from the past 11 months – January 2014 till November 2014, for desktop visits only.

Google News Traffic to the News and Media Industry in Spain

The News and Media industry in Spain gets around 30% search traffic, most of it from organic search:

news-and-media-search-traffic

Traffic Sources for the News and Media industry in Spain – by SimilarWeb

Almost 3% of this comes from News Search:

news-and-media-news-search

Search traffic distribution for the News and Media industry in Spain – by SimilarWeb

3% doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re talking about hundreds of millions of visitors a month, it’s not such a small number. To continue this investigation, I’ve taken the search traffic stats for 5 out of the top 10 News websites in Spain, mainly those who are getting most of the organic search traffic in this category and country. For each of these sites I checked their Search traffic share, as well as their New Search traffic. The stats here are for June to November 2014, for visits coming from desktop.

Measuring the Impact of Google News on top News Websites in Spain

The first site I checked was Marca.com. This site gets just over 80 million visits a month, about 17% of it coming from Search.

Marca-search-traffic

Marca.com traffic sources – by SimilarWeb

The site has already suffered a decrease in organic search traffic in the past six months, as you can see in this graph:

Marca-search-decrease-trend

Organic Search Traffic between June and November 2014 for Marca.com – by SimilarWeb

I found that 1.52% of this traffic comes from News Search. That’s around 200K worth of visits a month.

Marca-news-search

Marca.com search traffic distribution – by SimilarWeb

The second site I checked was Elmundo.es. This site gets about half of the traffic Marca gets, but it’s much more dependent on search traffic – 30% of about 40 million monthly visits  comes from search.

Elmundo-search-traffic

Elmundo.es traffic sources – by SimilarWeb

Elmundo, like Marca, has a decrease in search traffic since July 2014:

elmundo-search-decrease-trend

Organic Search Traffic between June and November 2014 for Elmundo.es – by SimilarWeb

The site is also much more dependant on News Search than Marca.com, with 4.61% of traffic coming from News Search. According to my calculations, Elmundo might be losing over half a million visits a month from the removal of News Search.

Elmundo-news-search

Elmundo.com search traffic distribution – by SimilarWeb

The third site I checked is RTVE.es. This site gets about 16.5 million visits a month with almost 50% of its traffic coming from search.

rtve-search-traffic

RTVE.es traffic sources – by SimilarWeb

RTEV.es, like the previous three sites I checked, showed a decrease in search traffic for the past 6 months, independent of the removal of News Search results.

Organic Search Traffic between June and November 2014 for RTVE.es – by SimilarWeb

Although RTVE.es is dependent mainly on search traffic, only 2.38% of it comes from News Search, which makes its potential loss of traffic close to what I found for Marca.com – around 200K visits a month.

RTVE-news-search

RTVE.es search traffic distribution – by SimilarWeb

The fourth site I checked was Elpais.com. Elpais gets about 40 million visits a month, 26% of it coming from Search.

Elpais-search-traffic

Elpais.com traffic sources – by SimilarWeb

And how was search traffic for Elpais.com in the past six month? You guessed it – showing a decrease trend:

elpais-search-decrease-trend

Organic Search Traffic between Jun 2014 and Nov 2014 for Elpais.com – by SimilarWeb

4.69% of Elpais’s Search traffic comes from News Search. My calculations showed that Elpais.com could potentially lose nearly 600K visits a month.

The last site I checked was ABC.es. The site gets about 23 million visits a month with 48% of it coming from Search.

abc-search-traffic

ABC.es traffic sources – by SimilarWeb

ABC.es also shows a decrease in Search traffic over the past six months, just as I found for the previous four news websites I’ve checked.

elmundo-search-decrease-trend

Organic Search Traffic between June and November 2014 for ABC.es – by SimilarWeb

Out of all news sites I’ve checked, ABC.es seems like it has the most to lose by the removal of Google News in Spain, with 7.72% of its Search traffic coming from News Search, which accounts for over 800K visits a month.

abc-news-search

ABC.es search traffic distribution – by SimilarWeb

Important Variables to Consider

Although the numbers look alarming for all of the sites I’ve checked, and for the industry as a whole, it’s important to remember that:

  1. For the past six months, all of these sites show a decrease in Search traffic that’s independent of the removal of News Search. This means that in order to really understand the impact of the loss of News Search traffic, we would need to add the existing decrease trend to the equation when examining the changes in traffic from December 16 and on.
  2. Although people won’t be able to access News Search Results in Spain, they will still be able to access the regular search results for the same search terms they were using before. While it’s not likely, it is possible that some of the users will find the absence of the News SERP so alarming that they’ll take a step back from their computer and refuse to click on links that are not in a news aggregated format. Yet, it’s more probable that the majority of users will simply use the regular SERP and browse through the results on that page. Sure, those sites that were ranked higher in the News SERP over the regular web SERP in Google.es will lose traffic, but it won’t be as drastic based on the numbers I’ve gathered from this industry. Let’s examine this further.

News Consumer Behavior

To put some data behind my hypothesis regarding user behavior when they search for news in Spain, I took a look on the domain – news.google.es. Going over the domain’s traffic distribution, I found about 65% of traffic comes from referrals:

news-google-es

New.Google.es traffic sources – by SimilarWeb

When I looked at the referrals, I found what I expected – most of the traffic came from Google.es which basically means people went to Google.es, searched for something, then clicked on ‘News’ in the top menu, which led them to news.google.es:

new-google-es-referrals

New.Google.es Referring websites – by SimilarWeb

From this data I can safely say that at least 65% of the traffic that went to Google News in Spain will simply be redistributed through the regular web SERP, while 35% of the traffic might be lost, or more realistically, will lead the users to type Google.es, instead of news.google.es, in their browser.

Although I didn’t start this research with this intention, I did discover that five of the top news websites in Spain have suffered an ongoing decrease in traffic from organic search over the past four to six months, which is interesting on its own and maybe worth a separate study.

I also found that Google News does have a significant impact on news websites in Spain. However, logic leads me to believe the effect will not be as significant as it seems by just looking at the numbers. This is simply because most Spanish news consumers will probably learn to adjust to the new reality and simply find other ways to get their daily dose of News. It would be interesting to hear other opinions about this issue.

What do you suppose the smartest move is from both sides?

 

Featured Image: Google doodles – 200th anniversary of spains constitution

Natalie Halimi

Natalie Halimi

Head of Marketing at SimilarWeb
Natalie Halimi is the head of online marketing at SimilarWeb, and Chief editor of SimilarWeb Blog.
Natalie Halimi
Natalie Halimi

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  • http://www.gestionconsult.es/blog/si-eres-blogger-el-canon-aede-te-afecta/ Francisco

    Great analysis Natalie!

    As I stated in my first analysis about this new law in Spain (know as AEDE tax here), it will impact on three ways:
    1. it limits access to information. As you told in your article, people will find out its way to their daily news, but people are lazy, so people will be more limited to different sources of information, you know how Google works…
    2. it creates law insecurity, as you are not sure whether you are breaking the law or not with links in your personal or company work.
    3. it threaten Internet ecosystem growth, as it doesn’t understand how Internet works: through mentions and links.

    Actually a Popular Party representative (the party that is governing Spain and has done this law) said some weeks ago that if Newspapers and lobbyist ask to change the law to allow Google News come back, the law will be changed. You can see here how much lobby is affecting this law and the whole Internet environment in Spain, as it does actually in many countries unfortunately.

    Kind Regards,
    Francisco

    • http://www.similarweb.com Natalie Halimi

      Thanks for the feedback Francisco. I totally agree with your analysis of the situation. It’s a thin line that goes between copyright rights and the ability to share content on the web. You can’t look on new media the same way you would on traditional media, and this is a principle that I think was missed in this case.