Friday, November 27, 2009

High noon in the news business

The battle between Rupert Murdoch and the rest of the "evil news-stealing world" seems ready to reach a crucial point very soon, with the future of free news content hanging in the balance.

Right now we tend to take it for granted that Google is "the" internet search engine and that other players, even Microsofts' much-hyped "Bing" are little more than "also-rans".

While that might be true now, there's a small chance that Murdoch and his publishing empire may join forces with Microsoft to significantly alter the balance of power in the online world.

For some time now, Murdoch has been moaning about the way that Google "steals" the news published by his online news and entertainment websites. The way he sees it, the search engine giant is exploiting his intellectual property for profit without proper reimbursement.

Of course you don't have to be a rocket scientist to realise that if NewsCorp really didn't want Google to index its websites, and thus link to them from its search engine and Google News services, all they had to do was add one small line of code to those pages and they would, as if by magic, be dropped from those indexes.

So why hasn't Murdoch done this already, if he's so worried?

Might it be that he's not as stupid as he seems and is actually well aware that Google's links are providing his sites with valuable extra traffic they might not otherwise get?

Or has Murdoch played a very canny game that has resulted in Microsoft rolling up to his door with its chequebook wide open?

The latest chapter in this evolving saga you see, is that Murdoch is now in talks with Microsoft to provide them with the exclusive right to index his websites.

If NewsCorp and Microsoft are able to strike a mutually acceptable deal then, almost overnight, all of Murdoch's online properties will vanish from Google and only be searchable through Bing.

Now if NewsCorp was some second-rate publisher this wouldn't even be worthy of comment -- but they are a massive player in the news and entertainment fields so if Google loses their content from its indexes, it will actually be quite a blow for services such as Google News.

By the same token, it will certainly send a lot more people to Bing, which is just what Microsoft needs to really make a dent in Google's online dominance.

For that reason, I don't think it's hard to work out that Microsoft may well be offering some significant amount of money to NewsCorp -- an amount that will go some way to stem the rapidly dwindling revenues that all in the news industry are presently experiencing.

So, while commentators the world over have been casting aspersions on Murdoch's ability to understand the internet and even his business savvy, it looks as if he might just get the last laugh this time.

What's more, I doubt we'll see the threatened NewsCorp paywalls -- simply because Murdoch's been smart enough to find a new way to make news pay online.

Or I could be completely wrong -- but it's food for thought, isn't it?

No comments:

Post a Comment