On Monday the Guardian wrote up a story about Murdoch blocking Google from listing stories from his newspapers. This in addition to him changing his newspaper websites from being freely accessible to sitting behind a paywall made plenty of people think Murdoch was crazy.
It is true this could turn out to be a gift to his competitors as this blog mentions. Indeed the Telegraph on whose site that blog is hosted must be rubbing their hands in glee.
For me, I believe this is an opportune moment for newspaper publishers and one that may not come again for a while. Rupert Murdoch is taking advantage.
Rupert Murdoch is right to say that when Google first started indexing the web; publishers were not aware of what they were signing up to. In fact I think we can safely say they were completely blind to the consequences of what they were agreeing to. Countering this of course is the fact that Google delivers 100,000 clicks every minute via Google News and its search engine. Removing itself from Google search is surely a surefire way to deliver more clicks to News International’s competitors right?
But it is an extremely short term view which will not help news publishers in the long term and that is where the opportunity that is available today comes from.
The key company mentioned in the comments made by Murdoch were that he would remove his websites from Google (my emphasis). In recent months, Microsoft launched Bing and gained enough traction that people are starting to believe Bing might go somewhere. It has of course a long way to go but one of the things Microsoft is doing is using its financial power to help it win the battle. Not just through its significant investment in R&D but also through partnerships. Witness Bing’s first mover deal with Twitter (which was quickly responded to by Google).
I believe either through a bright idea internally at News International or through a direct Microsoft approach that News International will strike commercial terms with Microsoft Bing and deliver its content through its news aggregation channel and through its search engine.
That will reset the relationship between search engines and news publishers and possibly lead to the newspapers being freely available on the web. I wonder how long it will be before Google agrees commercial terms with News International?
My bet is it will be quick enough that News International articles will never be removed from Google..
[update] The Financial Times is reporting that Micrsoft are in talks with News International to index their news stories in Bing.