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Google UK boss: Think of us as a newsagent

With schoolkids allowed in all the time?

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The head of Google UK reassured MPs yesterday that the massive ad broker does not steal content from impoverished publishers, and should be thought of more as a kindly local newsagent with a massive server farm at the back of the shop.

Matt Brittin gave the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee the impression that he was distressed by descriptions of the search giant as a "parasite".

'I want to make one thing incredibly clear - we do not steal content," he said, according to The Telegraph.

He added that Google was simply using a snippet of publishers' content and was in return sending oodles of impressions their way.

"We are, if you like, a virtual newsagent," he said.

If anything, he said, Google was performing a public service, as in a physical newsagent, publishers often have to pay to have their publication in the shop.

We like this image - of Eric, Larry and Sergy running a little corner shop, sort of like Ronnie Barker, David Jason and Nurse Gladys Emmanuel in an Open All Hours for the internet age.

The difference is that Google doesn't face the prospect of paying for their deliveries of magazines and are totally disinterested in whether or not customers are simply skimming the choice/dirty bits of the papers before they put them back, then buy some sweets.

Brittin insisted there was a long term future for papers - including locals - as "you can flick through things, you can find things easily, it's a nice assortment of stories and content, including advertising that's relevant to you".

Whether local papers will survive Google's latest wheeze of getting into property sales advertising is quite another question.

Brittin also put paid to the idea that Google is somehow groaning with cash on the back of all those ads it places around the snippets of other people's stories it uses in its search results.

Overall growth had slowed down to zero earlier this year he said, and it was picking up now.

But he added, when it comes to news content: "We don't make money from this content in any great measure." ®

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