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Google Plus and The Local Austria

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Google Plus and The Local Austria
Google logo in building 43. Photo: Robert Scoble / Flickr CC
13:11 CEST+02:00
It's clear Facebook is the reigning king of social media - but Google is working hard to change that.

Many readers of The Local Austria come to us via our Facebook page, where you can easily be alerted about the latest stories -- plus it's easy to visit our page, and scan back through the day's stories.

In addition, we have a lively Twitter feed, where you can get the latest news delivered directly to your smart phone.

We even post stories via LinkedIn, so you can connect with us there too.

But until recently, we've kept away from Google Plus, as hadn't thought it was worth the bother.

Google is facing some challenges with the traditional news media in Europe recently, as part of a wider "hearts and minds" battle which is taking place between the search giant and European business interests.

Newly appointed European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker has made it clear that he wants to implement a new digital strategy for the Continent.  Europe, he believes, has to become better equipped to defend itself from the US and Asia.

Every week, floods of complaints emerge from companies all over Europe, claiming that Google is acting in ways which threaten monopolies, and may engage in unfair competition in selected markets.

According to a report in Der Spiegel, on June 11, Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia wrote a letter to his colleagues on the European Commission, the EU's executive, outlining some of these markets. The letter states that they include "social networks, video catalogue, streaming, mobile phone operating systems and apps."

Among the latest complainants, the letter notes, is an advertising platform, the alliance of European photo agencies known as CEPIC, the Open Internet Project, which unites European publishers, and Deutsche Telekom. It can be safely predicted that Google's compliance with EU competition law will be closely monitored for a long time to come, says the article.

In an essay recently published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is head of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), wrote that people needed to stand up against the "brutal information capitalism". 

He argued "only the European Union has the power required to change the political course and rewrite the rules".

From October 9th, Google in Germany has been compelled to stop displaying "news snippets" from selected newspapers and other sites which sued it for copyright.  

Following the legal action by German publishers and the passing of an an "ancillary copyright" bill - aka a Google tax - in the country last year, Google will soon no longer display news snippets and thumbnail images from some of Germany's biggest publishers, according to a report from ZDNet.

According to the Financial Times, from October 9th, Google will only produce a link and headline to news stories from the publishers, a decision Google made after being sued in June by major German publishers represented by the German copyright and collection body VG Media.

Sites that Google will no longer include snippets from in its search results include bild.de, bunte.de or hoerzu.de.

German publisher Axel Springer has also lobbied hard against a settlement with Google over its search business in Europe. 

These battles were not new, as Google fought a coterie of newspapers in Belgium over linking with snippets, at one point eliminating completely the publications from its search results - although this was quickly restored after protests.

It is rumoured that Austria is mulling similar concerns over the search giant's dominance of media, and the decisions in Germany have been no doubt closely studied by Austrian legislators.

On Tuesday, Google's media outreach team partnered with the European Journalism Centre, Der Standard newspaper, the International Press Institute and the Forum Journalismus und Medien Wien to deliver training workshops and discussions on various aspects of social media, the press and data-driven journalism.

It's likely that such a move was in part predicated by concerns about Google's apparent dominance of the sector.

Whatever concerns may be shared among journalists, readers and politicians in Austria, there's no doubt that Google remains as the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which can't be ignored.

So, The Local Austria is going to test the waters, and we are diverting a portion of our limited resources to delivering stories via Google Plus.  We've even set up a special interest community for Weird Austrian News -- which will include stories taken from other sources too.

Please follow us there -- or join the circle or community -- and see if the experience is a positive one.  Oh, and please share any stories you find interesting, including via Google+.

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