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Rupert Murdoch (and Mark Cuban) vs Google
November 16, 2009 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Sky News Australia political editor David Speers interviewed Rupert Murdoch earlier this month, and covered a number of topics, including search engine access to news content under the Murdoch umbrella. In short, Rupert Murdoch is looking to a day when Google won't search News Corp. stories, and people will pay for their news (again). Murdoch's views of Google aren't new, claiming Google is stealing from News Corp. Murdoch's Google gambit set the internet buzzing, as briefed on The Opinionator. But Rupert Murdoch isn't the only one looking for Google to fall, with Mark Cuban proclaiming that Google can be taken down (again, or is that still?)
posted by filthy light thief (63 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Mark Cuban in a battle of money with Google?

This completely explains all the success the Mavericks have had.
posted by eriko at 7:55 PM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


So why don't News Corp properties block Google's spider? Or at least have a robots.txt that forbids it? For example, Fox actively helps Google index their site. (For you non-nerds, that file is providing Google with pointers to other files that contain a full map of all the stories on the site).

Other people have posed this question, and I have yet to hear an answer that is consistent with Murdoch's quoted views.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:13 PM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dag nabit - wrong initial Mark Cuban link - it should have been this one. He's not putting up his own money, just speculating on what it would take to ruin Google. His idea:
Would the top 1k most visited sites take a cool $1mm each, plus a committment from MicroSoft or Yahoo to drive traffic through their search engines to more than make up for the lost Google Traffic. After all, once consumers realized that Google no longer had valid search results for the top 25k searchs, that traffic would most likely go to MicroSoft and Yahoo.
But the first link I did include had this gem: Having to search for and find news in search engines is so 2008.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:15 PM on November 16, 2009


I for one welcome the possibility of this development. For example, when I run the following search string:

"MURDEROUS SHARKS" + "BIKINI COMPETITION" + "TEENAGE BINGE DRINKING OUT OF CONTROL" + "HITLER WOULD HAVE PLAYED VIDEO GAMES" + "SURFING DOG" + "IMMIGRANTS CAUSE CANCER"

I'd prefer it if the first six thousand hits weren't links to News Corp. front page stories.

On the other hand, I would enjoy it if I could punch in "WANK-FACED CLUELESS FUCKMONGLER" and the first hit was Andrew Bolt's blog.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:26 PM on November 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


I used to read Mark Cuban's blog back when he was all Landmark Theater-chatting and talking about making movies cool. Then I started reading more and more entries and it was like being trapped in a car on a long impulsive road trip with your buddy who used to be cool in college but now was kind of an asshole who forgot how to just talk to people.

The "my ideas are so awesome and I have so many of them, here you go, take them" stance gets really, really, really, old. Along with "anyone who doesn't agree with me is a retarded fanboy" vibe.
posted by jscott at 8:30 PM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I kinda hope Google goes: "OK, have it your way", and sets up their spiders to never crawl any News Corp affiliates.

Congratulations, Murdoch: as far as the internet is concerned, your empire has ceased to exist because the biggest search engine won't index you. You're a miss-shelved book in the Library of Congress.
posted by Decimask at 8:30 PM on November 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


News Corp won't block Google's spider until they have figured out how to monetize their site. Rupert's 3 steps, as I understand it from the interview:

1. Enforce copyrights on News Corps news (Rupert is sure everyone is stealing his news, and will stop when called on it)
2. Stop search engines from spidering News Corps sites
3. Charge for news (as there'll be fewer news sources)
4. Profit!

And after watching the interview, I am not sure how up-to-date Rupert is with internet technologies and such, so I don't know if he is the right guy to talk about News Corp's plans with the internet and news and such (his summary of France's 3 Strikes rule for internet users was a bit mixed up).
posted by filthy light thief at 8:32 PM on November 16, 2009


... plus a committment from MicroSoft

Dear Mark -- Microsoft hasn't capitalized the S its name since Reagan was president.
posted by birdherder at 8:33 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er, rather, 4 steps. Right.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:33 PM on November 16, 2009


It's only 4 if there IS profit in this.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:51 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Murdoch also accused Google of plagiarizing his company's motto, "Be Evil". 'Adding a "don't" doesn't make it original', he explained.
posted by problemspace at 8:54 PM on November 16, 2009 [13 favorites]


I keep seeing people suggest that Murdoch change his sites' robots.txt to stop Google from indexing them. Is there a reason why Google couldn't just modify its bot to ignore those instructions? I'm pretty sure it's a voluntary standard.
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 9:09 PM on November 16, 2009


On the other hand, I would enjoy it if I could punch in "WANK-FACED CLUELESS FUCKMONGLER" and the first hit was Andrew Bolt's blog.

I would like to block all Andrew Bolt stories, like with a hosts file.

Then punch him.
posted by pompomtom at 9:13 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


'Is there a reason why Google couldn't just modify its bot to ignore those instructions? I'm pretty sure it's a voluntary standard.'

Yes, they could ignore the instructions. You could also ignore the law and run around a shopping mall stabbing people with a rusty screwdriver. However, neither of these things will happen.

Oh Rupert, you senile clown. This latest hilarity reminds me of some wisdom for the ages:

- Technology invented before you're twenty years old comes to you effortlessly and is an integral part of your life.
- Technology invented from your twenties to fourties is cool, and you'll learn it and maybe make a living with it.
- Technology invented after your fourties is pure evil and a crime against the Natural Order of Things.

Count me in the ranks of people who hope Google will unilaterally stop indexing News Corp sites (all of them), just for the delectable irony of News Corp suing Google demanding to be indexed again.
posted by mullingitover at 9:28 PM on November 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


About Half in U.S. Would Pay for Online News, Study Finds, which doesn't seem too bad, but the USA and UK are tied for the lowest percentage, and the USA is tied with Australia for the lowest average amount we'd be willing to pay. And I got that link through Google News; apologies if you get one sentence and a "you must be a registered member" message, but hey, NYT is still kinda free. Anyway, good luck with that, Rupert; I'm sure many of the highly-placed people at your US 'news' properties are soiling themselves just thinking of the possibility of losing their symbiotic link to the Right-Wing Blogs.

And as for Mark Cuban, there's a cliche about how the most successful people have their biggest success after a long series of failures... Mark just reversed the process.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:31 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Would the top 1k most visited sites take a cool $1mm each, plus a committment from MicroSoft or Yahoo to drive traffic through their search engines to more than make up for the lost Google Traffic.

I am truly shocked -- shocked! -- to discover that a professional sports team franchise owner is unfamiliar with the concept of "collusion in restraint of trade".
posted by Lazlo at 9:33 PM on November 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'd love it if Google would stop returning hits from Murdoch's Evil Empire whenever we did a news search. In fact, he'd be doing us all a real service if schoolchildren and students were no longer able to search for 'news' and find the journalistic equivalents of Glenn Beck being returned in its place -- an evil simulacrum of the real thing.

Perhaps Google should just reclassify the products of Murdoch's media as 'right-wing propaganda' or 'arsewipe' so there was a higher degree of accuracy in the stuff being returned in Google searches? Surely that would make everybody happy?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:33 PM on November 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, they could ignore the instructions. You could also ignore the law and run around a shopping mall stabbing people with a rusty screwdriver. However, neither of these things will happen.

I guess what I meant by 'is there a reason they wouldn't just ignore the robots file' was something like, in the mall case, 'because you would get arrested and imprisoned.' If it was good business and it was legal, I imagine they would probably go ahead and ignore a purely voluntary convention. But I've read numerous suggestions regarding indexing instructions, some going as far as to claim Bing or somebody could buy the right to be the only one to index. Why would that be worth it? There would have to be some method of enforcement.
posted by poorlydrawnplato at 9:34 PM on November 16, 2009


About Half in U.S. Would Pay for Online News, Study Finds, which doesn't seem too bad, but the USA and UK are tied for the lowest percentage, and the USA is tied with Australia for the lowest average amount we'd be willing to pay.

In theory, I would pay for a maybe 10% of the music I've downloaded over the past decade. I reality, even of the 10% falling in the would pay category, I think I've actually purchased 1%, because I could easily find free sources. If it's a choice of nothing v. the times, I might pay for the times, as I quite like it. But that's not the choice; the choice is pay for the times or read the bbc for free, and so I'll read the bbc.
posted by Diablevert at 9:41 PM on November 16, 2009


> There would have to be some method of enforcement.

It would never work. You'd still just be a meta-search engine away from the "exclusive" content.
posted by Decimask at 9:44 PM on November 16, 2009


Didn't this already happen? Back in 2007, a bunch of Belgian newspapers sued Google for indexing their content. Google grumpily removed them from its index. The newspapers realized that they actually benefit from being findable, and changed their minds.

And yeah, until Murdoch puts an exclusion rule in robots.txt, he's just posturing.
posted by hattifattener at 9:50 PM on November 16, 2009


This "google steals news content" thing has been getting louder lately. Can anyone figure out what the hell it means? Google is a search engine, and also has an advertising-free news search page. I routinely click on obscure news sites I'd never ever otherwise come across, if not for news.google.com.

Lots of news sites run AdSense, but that is a voluntary thing, and the news site is paid for running the Google ads.

Ever since that AP idiot (Singleton I think?) went nuts with the "I will somehow stop Google from doing whatever it does" thing, I keep seeing this weird, vague trend of blaming a search engine for the decline of newspapers -- and newspapers have been in decline long before the Internet.
posted by kenlayne at 9:55 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


(And I remember the "deep linking" lawsuits and other fake controversies of the late '90s, but this current complaining about Google isn't about that, is it?)
posted by kenlayne at 9:57 PM on November 16, 2009


If a newspaper does not want to be part of Google News, we remove their content from our index—all the newspaper has to do is ask. There is no need for legal action and all the associated costs.

There you go, Rupert. Just ask Google and they'll be more than happy to stop indexing your papers for Google News.
posted by Talez at 10:16 PM on November 16, 2009


No, this is about the ads that Google places on its own pages next to search results. Rupert wants a cut on the revenue from those ads, because some of those ads appear next to content (search results) from Rupert's newspapers. Rupert's content makes Google's search engine more useful. He wants a cut of the action.
posted by awfurby at 10:43 PM on November 16, 2009


I, for one, would love to see both Murdoch and Cuban taken down.
posted by semmi at 10:43 PM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whenever I see the name "Sky News", I think it's an astronomy news service.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:47 PM on November 16, 2009


poorlydrawnplato: "I guess what I meant by 'is there a reason they wouldn't just ignore the robots file' was something like, in the mall case, 'because you would get arrested and imprisoned.' If it was good business and it was legal, I imagine they would probably go ahead and ignore a purely voluntary convention. But I've read numerous suggestions regarding indexing instructions, some going as far as to claim Bing or somebody could buy the right to be the only one to index. Why would that be worth it? There would have to be some method of enforcement."

Google would not ignore a robots.txt file because it's bad for business to ignore a robots.txt file. If Google started doing that it would have angry villagers with torches and pitchforks coming after it from all parts of the internet. Can a site only let bing's robot index it? Sure, and Google will readily ignore your site, but it would effectively be self-censorship since at best only 10% of internet users use bing. Getting your site indexed by Google is generally something you want if you want traffic. The newspapers could all drop out of Google tomorrow with a tiny edit to robots.txt, and they could have their entire websites all to themselves. Just them and the tumbleweeds.
posted by mullingitover at 11:07 PM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


"News Corp won't block Google's spider until they have figured out how to monetize their site."
Even then, I don't think they'll take their pages out of Google's index. They'll leave something spiderable so they don't lose too much more traffic, and continue to spout some waffle about it all being Google's fault.

Newspapers could've easily grabbed a huge chunk of the online advertising/search/news-search market ten years ago. They had the content, money and advertisers, but were too arrogant and ignorant to make the move and listen to advice from forward-thinking geeks.
Even today, I wonder if local papers might still have the chance to grab a slice of local-orientated online communities, but then I look at their cluttered, poorly-coded sites and realise it isn't going to happen.
posted by malevolent at 12:38 AM on November 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


What I want to know is: how can we get The Daily Mail in on this deal? The epic fail that is heading for Murdoch if he implements this should be shared equally.
posted by saturnine at 1:18 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


About Half in U.S. Would Pay for Online News, Study Finds

That doesn't surprise me; I used to subscribe to Salon and bought my wife a sub. Of course, I stopped after a couple of years because it became so relentlessly negative that I realised it was actually making me feel miserable and pessamistic, and that was before 2003. But yeah, I'd pay for a decent online news site.
posted by rodgerd at 1:21 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I kinda hope Google goes: "OK, have it your way", and sets up their spiders to never crawl any News Corp affiliates.

I hope not. I don't want to see Google descending into retaliatory tactics. Leave it on the newspaper's head to block the spider or demand removal from the index.

This isn't about the poor, backwards newspaper that can't create a robots.txt, however. Murdoch even expresses understanding in the interview that Google will pull content on request. What he is saying this time around is he feels the eyeballs he gets via search hits are worthless leeches incapable of becoming valued readers.
posted by hoot at 1:22 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


This "google steals news content" thing has been getting louder lately. Can anyone figure out what the hell it means?

Tough economy. Easy target.
posted by hoot at 1:27 AM on November 17, 2009


Marc Cuban is an idiot.

Also, Google isn't stealing anything. Any news paper can remove their content (They don't even show people the entire articles) whenever they want. Newscorp has chose not too, instead they complain for no reason. I honestly can't figure out wtf they are trying to accomplish, unless it's somehow guilt tripping google into giving them free money.

If I were charge of Google, I'd be doing everything I could to destroy newscorp. Not because it's a threat, just because I really don't like Rupert Murdoch.
posted by delmoi at 3:42 AM on November 17, 2009


Would the top 1k most visited sites take a cool $1mm each, plus a committment from MicroSoft or Yahoo to drive traffic through their search engines to more than make up for the lost Google Traffic. After all, once consumers realized that Google no longer had valid search results for the top 25k searchs, that traffic would most likely go to MicroSoft and Yahoo.

So Marc Cuban's big idea is that if every major website colluded against google they could take google down? Wow, what a stunning insight. But what's in it for them? I bet most of those sites probably use google adsense as well. Just an over-riding love of Rupert Murdoc and Mark Cuban? What would be in it for, say, Wikipedia?

I mean yeah if the vast majority of businesses decide to stop working with you, it would be hard to stay in business. I'm not exactly sure why Cuban thinks that's likely to happen. I think there would be, er, issues with anti-trust law.

He's probably just jealous of the youtube deal. He constantly whined that Youtube was "breaking the law!" (which it wasn't) and would get shut down.
Murdoch also accused Google of plagiarizing his company's motto, "Be Evil". 'Adding a "don't" doesn't make it original', he explained.
LOL.
No, this is about the ads that Google places on its own pages next to search results. Rupert wants a cut on the revenue from those ads, because some of those ads appear next to content (search results) from Rupert's newspapers. Rupert's content makes Google's search engine more useful. He wants a cut of the action.
I think (but I'm not sure) that newspapers actually do get a cut.
---
As far as paying for content, I already pay for my Internet connection plus my phone's data plan. I wouldn't mind paying extra directly to websites I actually visit. Just as long as newscorp goes bankrupt first.
posted by delmoi at 3:53 AM on November 17, 2009


Wait a minute. News is reporting facts as they happened, right? How can you steal facts?

Oh, I see. Google is stealing "news" that was manufactured by Fox.
posted by explosion at 4:15 AM on November 17, 2009


Other sites stealing content: Rotten Tomatoes, AllThingsDigital, Politics Buzztracker and Wall Street Journal's tech news page. All Murdoch properties.
posted by harriet vane at 4:23 AM on November 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I remember seeing a snippet on /. where Murdoch coyly said he was going to stop Google from indexing his sites, without providing any context for "how" this was to be done (uh.. hello? robots.txt?), and the reporter didn't cover both sides of the story for obvious reasons... Murdoch owns Sky News. This gives him the power to spew whatever political bile he wants all over the pages of any paper or media outlet he owns, which, unfortunately is quite a lot.
posted by tybeet at 4:51 AM on November 17, 2009


Saw this on Slashdot a few days back - someone there noted that 8 out of 10 stories featured on Newscorp's main site were AP line stories. So Murdoch is stealing content too - he might pay for the AP wire (as does Google) but he pits his own ads next to the stories too.
posted by caution live frogs at 4:51 AM on November 17, 2009


I honestly can't figure out wtf they are trying to accomplish, unless it's somehow guilt tripping google into giving them free money.

My only guess is that it's a long-term smear campaign.
posted by tybeet at 4:55 AM on November 17, 2009


Newscorp screwed up delphi.com, the'll screw up this.
posted by mikelieman at 5:19 AM on November 17, 2009


Google can be taken down. Well, duh. Of course they can. All corporations end, more or less because the individuals or families or partners controlling them eventually die and the corp loses its focus. It is hard to keep a company on track after the founding personalities that drive it die off. (There are some that go on for several human lifetimes, but these are in the strict minority.)

What he's really saying, I suspect, is that he would like it if Google made less money (and had less influence), presumedly so his own interests can make more money and be more influential.

Google frightens some of these folks because they are so heavily invested in a scarcity model. The thinking is that there is only so much money to go around; one can corner the market on news; there is only so much room in a public mind for brands; &etc.

What is interesting is the frothing anger that these guys can generate over this. Cuban has reserved this rage only for the sorts of companies he has had a hand in himself; he has never really been interested in bricks-and-mortar sorts of endeavours, and is squarely New Economy. Murdoch is old-school media, of course, but this itself is a relatively new business model in the grand scheme of things.

So what we have here are influential capitalists who basically operate in the same milieu as companies like Google, who are angry because Google found ways to do much, much better than they have. Let's be frank here; both are more angry that they didn't come up with these ideas first.

It occurs to me that most of this corporate rage we hear about is primarily the basest sort of corporate jealousy. Google got in early, managed to negotiate the shoals of regulators, and made a tonne of money with very little opportunity cost. It doesn't hurt that they managed to negotiate two tech bubbles, actually make money for their investors and went public successfully. This is very nearly the New Tech trifecta.

No wonder Cuban and Murdoch are checking their dick sizes. Google's is definitely longer, harder and thicker.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:20 AM on November 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


This "google steals news content" thing has been getting louder lately. Can anyone figure out what the hell it means?

My girlfriend is in publishing. If you ever want to make publishers and agents red in the face, tell them that Google indexes the web by keeping a cached copy of the sites it crawls.

It's entertaining.
posted by generichuman at 5:45 AM on November 17, 2009


If MS decided that they really wanted to differentiate Bing so they started offering to pay content producers in exchange for search exclusivity, what's to stop me from indexing those sites myself, allowing Google to index me and using all those pageviews/clickthroughs/etc to my own nefarious ends?
posted by Jugwine at 5:54 AM on November 17, 2009


Murdoch is an idiot. He should let his news companies and media outlets fail peacefully. Clearly the internet will bear much of the blame for said failures, but I like Google. It's a cool company! I hate Microsoft because Bill Gates is so rich, so I like all other powerful tech companies--Apple too.

Besides, who needs newspapers like the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal? Let them fail. I know of many blogs that summarize their articles and can just read those. How anyone can even fathom taking Google down is beyond me, a nonprofit organization that does not make very much money at all. The problem with taking down Google is there are just no other ways to find things on the internet. Nor are there other email applications out there.

I am entitled to consume free of charge whatever I am able to access via my computer. That includes music, movies and the news. Our country would be a lot better anyways without musicians, filmmakers and journalists.

Fox News sucks. I would not hate that channel so much if I had the freedom to choose to not watch it.
posted by stevenstevo at 6:25 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


tybeet - in the interview itself, David Speers starts out by disclosing that News Corp. owns 1/3 of Sky News Australia, and he actually does a good job of asking how certain plans will actually work. It's long for a YouTube link, but I think it's worth listening to the whole thing.

As for Google and robots.txt, it's when not how. Murdoch said that he might be looking to challenge the "Fair Use" doctrine in the courts, possibly barring anyone from copying their material (I assume - he doesn't go into that much detail). But as harriet vane noted in the link, there are many News Corp. sites that aggregate data and would fail if they couldn't. Nthing "loony old guy who doesn't understand how it all works online." His decisions sound similar to those of the AP, who were thinking of charging blogs $12.50 for quoting 5 words.

I really wonder what'll happen to the News Corp. empire one Murdoch steps down or passes on. Will they really change for the modern days, or hold onto the ways of the old empire. The internet is still relatively young, and the Next Big Thing keeps changing, so it may take a while yet before news providers figure out how they can co-exist with the rest of the netizens.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:56 AM on November 17, 2009


stevenstevo writes "I am entitled to consume free of charge whatever I am able to access via my computer. That includes music, movies and the news. Our country would be a lot better anyways without musicians, filmmakers and journalists."

I agree with this entire post, because false premises are suddenly true when they're buried in sarcasm.
posted by mullingitover at 7:19 AM on November 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


stevenstevo: "Our country would be a lot better anyways without musicians, filmmakers and journalists."

We're talking about Fox. They don't have any journalists.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:31 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Our country would be a lot better without the word "anyways."
posted by blucevalo at 7:34 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


About Half in U.S. Would Pay for Online News, Study Finds

I'm very skeptical of these findings. If this is true, why hasn't half of the U.S paid for online news already? TimesSelect was a miserable failure. Except for the WSJ, has any major news organization profitably sold their content online? (For that matter, does the WSJ profitably sell their online content or is it just a loss leader?)

It's true that a few smaller, niche businesses like Salon and Nerve have managed, just, to sell "premium" content, but no one's becoming another Rupert Murdoch on that money. If people were so eager to buy general news online, the newspapers wouldn't be dropping like dinosaurs.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:36 AM on November 17, 2009


because false premises are suddenly true when they're buried in sarcasm.

Well, it seems to work for him, because that characterizes about 90% of the half dozen comments he's made since he joined in August.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:40 AM on November 17, 2009


I kinda hope Google goes: "OK, have it your way", and sets up their spiders to never crawl any News Corp affiliates.

This would be funny, but it would play into the "we're being victimized" mindset that fans of Murdoch's networks seem to get off on.

I'd much rather Google just ensure that any News Corp article or link got pushed back to about page 5 on the results. Not so much "Ha, we're blocking you" as "Meh, now you're just not relevant any more".

That seems like it would be more damning than anything.
posted by quin at 8:01 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this is true, why hasn't half of the U.S paid for online news already?

If there were really unique or exemplary news that was pay-only, this could happen. As it is, there are so many free sources of news that there is no way someone would pay for general news. Yes, many news sites are re-wording the same message from other feeds (AP, Reuters, whoever else), relying on adverts to pay their wages.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:44 AM on November 17, 2009


I just love the idea of News Corp engaging in a stare-down with Google. Murdoch's concentrating so hard, trying not to blink. And Google's benevolent eye is just staring back blankly, unconcerned. Because it has a million other eyes staring at the rest of the world at the same time and the brain power to absorb all that information at once.
posted by Nelson at 8:49 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


A prediction: if the major news outlets do withdraw their content from Google, to the extent that it starts having a noticeable impact on search results, then Google will look for ways to replace it. For example, they could pump a large amount of money into Wikinews so that professional journalists and editors could work alongside crowd-sourced content. And give favourable advertising deals to niche online publishers to effectively pay them to produce more. And fund/promote enough topical video content to compete with TV news channels.

Basically, as long as Google has cash in the bank, Murdoch should be wary of prodding them into entering the news business. They just might stomp all over his newspaper and TV businesses.
posted by malevolent at 9:23 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd consider paying to have Murdoch and Ailes excluded from the news business.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:57 AM on November 17, 2009


The web divisions at media companies - who can speak fluent "clayshirky", quote from Freakonomics and are invariably Twittering at a New Media conference - haven't brought home the goods; media company boards and shareholders now see them more as part of the problem than as the solution.

So if others follow Murdoch's advice, leaving Google to collect the world's Tweets and trackbacks, it's hard to imagine how the triumphant web utopianism could ever return.


- Orlowski

also, Calacanis
posted by mr.marx at 10:22 AM on November 17, 2009


How dare Google access data that News Corp. made accessible! The nerve!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:55 AM on November 17, 2009


The epic fail that is heading for Murdoch if he implements this should be shared equally.

It's an epic fail either way, is the thing. Murdoch has lots of the details of Google wrong -- the "stealing content" bit is particularly asinine -- but he is completely correct in much else of what he's saying. The bits that don't get as widely reported are like the reason he says he has to get off Google: it's killing his companies. People here and elsewhere all race to say that leaving Google would be a stupid move, but that implies that he's better off staying on. He isn't.

The traffic that News Corp sites get from Google is pretty much valueless to them. The ad rates online for non-specific tranches of unknown readers are pitiful; they're not very much better for specific targeted niches. But "more readers = more cash" has been a truism of print journalism for so long that it's taken the best part of a decade for executives to realise that it doesn't work online. The business models that enable print publications to make cash from every extra person that reads the paper simply don't work online. All those years spent "building audience" instead turn out to be badly wasted time.

Murdoch isn't stupid, and if you think something he's doing is stupid, you probably haven't thought about it enough. (Even his famous missteps are often near-misses. He fucked up with MySpace, but only because he didn't recognise that the users didn't love the shitty experience, they were clamouring to escape. If he had, he would simply have tried to buy FaceBook instead or would have radically redesigned after takeover, and might avoided disaster).

In this case, he knows that there is a big loss of traffic if you go off Google. But he's weighing up the benefits: He knows that online advertising doesn't work, and that charging for news is the only possible route left to save the businesses as they stand. If he gets a smaller but much more dedicated amount of traffic, he might be able to monetise it better. After all, a fair few businesses do thrive without being on Google: Craigslist, Twitter and Facebook all flourished while their content was pretty much invisible to Google.

However, he also knows that you can't do it if there are free alternatives still punting out the stuff for free.

Hence this three-part strategy:
1. Make a lot of noise about "coming off google", "charging a fair price for news etc". The intended audience for these pronouncements isn't you and me, it's other newspaper proprietors. He says what they all know -- online advertising isn't going to pay the bills -- and tries to get momentum going on the idea that if everybody erects paywalls, it just might save their collective bacon. He's trying to say the emperor has no clothes.

2. Clip the BBC's wings. This is why James Murdoch has been giving lectures ranting about how paying for good journalism and giving it away is terrible for the industry.

3. Use the politicians. The Sun suddenly switches to backing the Tories. A couple of weeks later, the Tories unveil their plans for media: a cut in the BBC licence fee and a deregulation of media ownership, so that News Corp can buy up all the regional papers and pull them inside the paywall as well. This isn't coincidence.

Personally, I don't think it'll work. The business model is absolutely broken, and the "free news" cat has been out of the bag for way too long. But Murdoch has can either admit that and just shut up shop now, or he can go down fighting and try to hold back the tide. Which would you expect him to do?

News corp's print arm might well be doomed, but it's definitely doomed if it keeps on giving away its content for free to drive-by Googlers. There's really nothing to lose for them, now. And there's nothing for his competitors to win if all the traffic he shuns comes their way. None of them are making any serious money online either. An extra few million readers just won't change that.
posted by bonaldi at 11:01 AM on November 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


Good stuff, bonaldi.
posted by mr.marx at 11:42 AM on November 17, 2009


2. Clip the BBC's wings. This is why James Murdoch has been giving lectures ranting about how paying for good journalism and giving it away is terrible for the industry.

Seems like it works pretty well for the BBC and British viewers. But oh, it doesn't let Rupert Murdoch make billions so it must be bad!
posted by delmoi at 4:17 PM on November 17, 2009


Yeh, that lecture was met by this kind of amused/bemused reaction here. "Wait, so the guy behind the Sun, the News of the World and Sky is complaining that the BBC is doing too much good work and making it harder for them to make money from crap? The problem is ...?"

Even papers like the Mail, who'll have a pop at the BBC for just about anything, thought that was a hard sell.
posted by bonaldi at 4:33 PM on November 17, 2009


What Do Murdoch's Customers Think About His Pay-Wall Plans and Google-bashing? (from advertising trade-paper AdAge, so assume a pro-ad-business-model bias)
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:31 PM on November 17, 2009


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