Mark Cuban takes aim at online aggregators

HDNet chairman compares aggregators to vampires

NEW YORK -- Meet Mark Cuban the vampire slayer! The HDNet chairman and Dallas Mavericks owner on Tuesday urged newspaper publishers to try cutting off online aggregators like Google, a move that News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch has been flirting with, calling them vampires that suck dry content creators.

During a keynote speech entitled "How to Save the Content Biz" at the OnMedia NYC conference here, Cuban said the vampires seem to have had an "unending source of victims," and ballsy publishers should put a stake through their hearts.

"You guys have let vampires - whether it's Google or (other) aggregators- ... take your content," Cuban told members of traditional media companies. "You have turned into a zombie."

The problem: companies have been indexed on Google without having been able to convert traffic into advertising or other dollars.

Instead of winning loyal audiences for their own branded Websites, newspapers and others often only reinforce Google's brand, Cuban argued.

"You are giving the content away," Cuban said. "Google has simplified things so much, we forget that people just default to Google."

But there continues to be an important place for professionally produced content in the digital world, and publishers must convince people to type in their own URLs, Cuban said.

"Take a chance! See what happens when you turn them off and they can't index you," he said before referencing classic vampire movie scenes again. "You can't be the dumb blond -- male or female -- and turn your neck."

During a panel following Cuban's remarks, Greg Coleman, president and chief revenue officer of the Huffington, said the Google relationship has been working well for his free online content company, because it has been able to sell ads based on the traffic.

HuffPo has a "huge, wonderful business with Google right now," he said.

Coleman also expressed concern about a push by the likes of Murdoch, the New York Times and many others for pay walls for online content. "I get protecting content," he said, but argued content creators may lose scale and customers forever if they create walled gardens. He pointed to the limited success with pay walls of such newspapers as Cablevision's Newsday.

Cuban, meanwhile, said pay walls are a good idea, because they can protect content and bring in additional revenue.

Cuban on Tuesday also called on content firms to actively tailor their product to Apple's new iPad, which he argued will be a bigger game changer than Amazon.com's Kindle e-book reader, because it changes the form of presentation, while the Kindle mainly takes existing content and puts it on a device.

Cuban said content creators should think up new paid-for content and ad ideas for the iPad now to take advantage of the potential business opportunity.
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