Will he or won’t he? That is the question; does News Corp President Rupert Murdoch have the nads to put his money where his mouth is? A few months ago I wrote an article about Murdoch’s previous statements accusing Google of “stealing” from him because his various publications were being indexed by Google (thieves!!). At the time I challenged Murdoch to just put a script in all of web pages that make them invisible to Google crawlers. Well, it seems he’s thinking of doing just that.
Of course Google says go ahead, make our day. A Google spokesperson said, “Google News and web search are a tremendous source of promotion for news organisations, sending them about 100,000 clicks every minute. “Publishers put their content on the web because they want it to be found, so very few choose not to include their material in Google News and web search. But if they tell us not to include it, we don’t.” 100,000 clicks every minute, that’s a lot of cpm and a lot of cash.
The crux of his argument is that a) the average user who finds their way to Foxnews or another publication has little value for advertisers because they are not the target group (I would disagree with this argument); b)even if they were of some value, newspapers cannot make enough money from online advertising to be profitable. I’m guessing the Huffington Post would disagree with that.
Murdoch’s problem (and many in the industry) is that he lives in a 20th century world where you had a huge staff of reporters around the world and you had a ton of classified ads (the most profitable part of the old industry) and a minimal subscription rate to have the paper delivered. If you try to maintain that rubric you are doomed to failure, especially if all you are offering is basic news service. The only reason the Wall Street Journal charges and can get away from it is because they provide content that no one else really does. It’s a niche market, and it is profitable, but not outrageously so.
The reason why HuffPo and the Politico have been successful is because they have a much smaller staff, they provide great content (even if they are liberals) and they make a profit from advertising. If you put a pay-wall up you are going to kill your business, especially for a random newspaper like The London Times or The Boston Herald. You can get the news anywhere. I haven’t read my local paper in years and I only stop by it when I want to read articles about the Cardinals or something. If they started charging I’d just go to ESPN or something else. I’m not paying for news. Ever.
Personally, I think Murdoch is lying. He is trying to leverage Google and other search engines against each other so that he can get some kind of exclusive deal where the search engine pay him a large amount like Google did to index Myspace (does anyone use that any more)? Boingboing has some good analysis about this if you want to learn more. See what I just did there, that is called being part of the link economy, which is the new currency of the Internet. If you are not part of it, you are going to loose out big time.
So Murdoch, go ahead, turn the red key and assure your own destruction. Who wants to bet me that this never happens?
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