In what The New York Times describes as one of the “scariest” developments yet for the newspaper industry, Google
last week launched Google Base, a user-generated database in which
people can upload “any old thing they feel like” which could become a
free alternative to the newspaper classified ad section. Reports the Times:

If Google Base accelerates the process, the journalism-school debates
over anonymous sourcing and declining audience may end up seeming
quaint.

Google Base reverses the polarity on the company’s consumer model.
Instead of simply sending automated crawlers out across the Web in
search of relevant answers to search queries, Google has invited its
huge constituency of users to send and tag information that will be
organized and displayed in relevant categories, all of which sounds
like a large toe into the water of the classified advertising business,
estimated to be worth about $100 billion a year.

This could be a fine thing for consumers, but for newspapers, which owe
about a third of their revenues to classified advertising, it could be
more a spike to the heart than just another nail in the coffin.

Read the full story here.