Is Rupert Murdoch finally going to get his way? The Financial Times has the story:
Microsoft has had discussions with News Corp over a plan that would involve the media company being paid to “de-index” its news websites from Google, setting the scene for a search engine battle that could offer a ray of light to the newspaper industry.
The impetus for the discussions came from News Corp, owner of newspapers ranging from the Wall Street Journal of the US to The Sun of the UK, said a person familiar with the situation, who warned that talks were at an early stage.
However, the Financial Times has learnt that Microsoft has also approached other big online publishers to persuade them to remove their sites from Google’s search engine.
News Corp and Microsoft, which owns the rival Bing search engine, declined to comment.
Read the whole story here.
PCWorld’s Ian Paul has a good analysis of how this move could bite Microsoft and Web users:
In a Bing partnership with News Corp. world Google would just display non-News Corp. sources discussing the same stories. Who loses there? Not the user.
Microsoft could waste a lot of money and effort on buying up exclusivity deals with News Corp and The Financial Times’ other unnamed major Web publishers. Meanwhile, Google can just sit back and watch Microsoft pay big bucks to give Bing users exclusive access to news content that will only remain exclusive until a non-News Corp site summarizes the story or does their own reporting on the same subject.
…in an intensely fractured Web search world (which this deal could lead to), Google and Bing may have no choice but to cut metasearch deals with each other, which would make exclusive indexing even more pointless.
The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson claims that although the Wall Street Journal would lose 25% of its traffic by delisting from Google, that wouldn’t be a revenue-killer:
The central struggle of monetizing online news is that ad rates for web pages are significantly worse than the print ad rates that once buttressed newspapers. So for a newspaper publisher like Murdoch, big online traffic helps, but it doesn’t pay for a sprawling roster of reporters and editors. Somebody’s gotta break the tyranny of revenue-light banner ads, eventually. You can go the Daily Beast model and try to infuse online ads with a dash of glamour to drive up premiums and juice click-through rates. You can go the Financial Times/WSJ model of combining limited free content with paid registration for full access. Or you can think outside the box, turn off Google and get another search engine to pay you for exclusive rights to your content.
…remember, big traffic numbers are a fig leaf. Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review found that this 25% Google crowd accounted for less than $12m a year in advertising. If Murdoch can get a better deal with Bing — at a time when Bing might be desperate to increase its news integrity — then we should take this threat seriously.
With so much innovation going on in journalism right now, I would hate to see outlets win the readership wars based only on deep pockets. Regardless of outcome, I have to give Rupert Murdoch credit for giving unfolding events a soap-operatic quality.