Google, News Corp, Bing And Access To News

Posted by on Nov 25, 2009 in Media | No Comments

Rupert Murdoch is literally pointing a loaded gun to Google’s head, and Microsoft appears more than happy to help pull the trigger. It is that simple. Murdoch and various executives at News Corp. have been very vocal about their disdain for Google linking to their content (without paying them) and their desire to lead other media companies in a boycott of all things Google.

Basically the back story is Murdoch keeps threatening to stop (via a simple line of code) letting Google index the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and his many other media outlets. In fact they have taken it to another level and are now actively courting other media outlets to join him in this self-imposed ban. The Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press (AP) are the two largest news organizations to voice support for Microsoft’s idea (and yes I know we can live without News Corp. and the AP).

Well the folks at Microsoft’s Bing, a distant third (behind Google and second place Yahoo!) in search market share at 12.8%, think this is the greatest idea since sliced bread. Such a good idea in fact, that the Financial Times has reported that Microsoft is in discussions with News Corp. and other publishers about the possibility of paying them to remove their sites from Google’s search index. $15M is the amount being thrown around Bing is offering News Corp. The payment is supposed to help off-set the lost ad revenue News Corp. online media properties would loose if almost all Google traffic stopped.

Lets me be very clear, Microsoft is not afraid to buy search market share, which is exactly what it’s doing with the Yahoo! search deal. But with these latest talks, Microsoft appears to be literally trying to buy the news, or at least exclusive access to the news.

So what does this mean?

Bing can’t buy all the news, it can only buy exclusive indexing access (how a news article shows up in a keyword search you enter) to certain media outlets. However, at least to me $15M sounds like a small price to pay to basically “own” all of Murdoch’s content when Microsoft has around $40B in cash on hand.

Therefore, is it possible Bing could throw around $15M here and $15 there and somehow become the only place you can find news results and working links to the Wall Street Journal and other top papers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the LA Times? Would that be a reason for a lot of folks to switch from Google to Bing? From a geeky search engine analysis site, Searchblog:

In order to actually make a dent in Google’s market share, Bing would have to pay such exorbitant sums to so many different news companies that it would be difficult to recoup its investment. Bing would certainly get some marketing buzz out of any such move, but that’s about it.

Agreed. But this is an analysis from a search engine market share point-of-view. Not the point-of-view of a news consumer. Our “major” media outlets are all owned by a handful of companies. If Bing would strike a deal with say News Corp (they’re only talking $15M/year), a wire service like AP, MSNBC (the MS in MSNBC actually stands for Microsoft), the Washington Post Company, and Hearst, or heaven forbid somebody like Time Warner you are talking about a vast amount of news being gone from Google.

Just follow those links above, that go directly to all the company’s various media holdings and you can see with just a half dozen companies following Murdoch’s lead and you are talking about a massive amount of “popular” news content.

I can’t stress this is a huge issue that should be getting a lot more coverage. I mean do we really want an online world where if you are looking for a Time article heard referenced on the NBC Nightly News, you have to stop and pause and think, “Is their stuff on Google or Bing?”

Now I have some faith cause of the nature of the Internet this won’t work. I think the flaw in Murdoch’s and Microsoft’s logic is that information spreads so quickly these days, exclusives last about 30 seconds. Any information “hidden” from Google will quickly end up on a site that is indexed by Google.

Plus exclusive indexing goes against the Web’s inherent openness at dozens of different levels. But then again I am not usually in the habit of betting against either Microsoft or News Corp.

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