Doc Searls adds his voice to Jason Calacanis' on the Zell nonsense that came out the other day:
Earth to Post: Putting editorial on the Web is itself permission for anybody to read it, search it, index it, and link to it. Google is not the Web, which is where people and organizations put material for the purpose of sharing it. If you don't want people to read editorial anywhere but on paper, don't put it on the Web, or embed code that tell search engines not to index it. The Agence France-Press is clueless as hell about this, and the fact that Google settled a copyright-infringement suit with them means nothing about what the Web is or why one puts stuff there. Most importantly, don't expect to succeed in a world that looks more and more, every day, to the Web as the place to find useful editorial, if you keep that editorial off the Web.
As I said the other day, if you don't want Google (or other robots) indexing you, it's simple: just implement robots.txt properly, and you'll stop being indexed. Just don't be surprised when the number of inbound visitors drops like a rock. I have no idea what the visitor distribution for the newspapers looks like, but here's what Google Analytics says about mine:
Looks like cutting search engines off my site would be a very, very bad idea - and I suspect that it would be an equally bad idea for Zell's papers. I also suspect, based on his speech, that he's never seen the equivalent graph for his newspaper.
There's an even bigger problem for most newspapers. Pick up your local paper - for me that's either the Washington Post or the Baltimore Sun. Flip through the news pages - notice how few stories there are that aren't wire pickups? Before the web existed, it made sense for the local paper to be an aggregator of various wire stories. Now? I can get all of that myself - which is why I don't have a newspaper delivered. What about editorials? Well, contrary to what the editors at the WaPo seem to thik, their editorial staff simply isn't any more thoughtful than what I can pick up around the political blogosphere (and I can find a far more varied set of viewpoints that way, too).
All of which leads to an interesting question: what value can a paper provide, whether it's in paper form or online? Well, how about local stories? The New York Times isn't going to go deep on county level happenings in the DC metro area, but the Post could. The problem is that the Post (and every other paper, for that matter), has an elevated view of their own importance. They think the local stories are beneath them; thus they don't bother. What they don't realize is that the national stuff is all on the wires, on TV, and on the net already - they can't add any real value there. People like Zell are going to continue to get creamed as long as they try to cling to an increasingly out of date world-view on newspapers.
I'll say this: any paper that managed to bring Doc on as a consultant, and actually listened to him, would do well.