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Blocking Google being eyed as a way to get people to pay for News Corp content

Rupert Murdoch's move to online users to pay for content they read is infamous at this point. The publishing impresario has some of the most popular newspapers in the world under his News Corp umbrella.

Murdoch is also running one of the few successful publications online that charges for access -- The Wall Street Journal. The catch for Murdoch is that there is a well known workaround for accessing WSJ content online without having to pay or register with the publication -- Google. You can search the title of most any WSJ story that requires a paid account with Google and find the complete article for free.

Murdoch is now saying that he will remove stories all together from Google's search index as a way to encourage people to pay for content. Encourage here is a synonym for force. Murdoch told Sky News Australia that the papers in his empire including the Sun, Times, and WSJ would consider blocking Google entirely once that fully enacted plans for charging people to read stories.

Murdoch said, "I think we will (block Google), but that's when we start charging. We have it already with the Wall Street Journal. We have a wall, but it's not right to the ceiling. You can get, usually, the first paragraph from any story - but if you're not a paying subscriber to all you get is a paragraph and a subscription form."

Murdoch continued saying, "There's a doctrine called fair use, which we believe to be challenged in the courts and would bar it altogether... but we'll take that slowly."

Murdoch had previously promised that starting in 2010 charging for the use of his websites would be enacted. He is backtracking on that a bit and now says that he won’t promise that date will be met.

Murdoch said, "The people who simply just pick up everything and run with it – steal our stories, we say they steal our stories - they just take them. That's Google, that's Microsoft, that's, a whole lot of people ... they shouldn't have had it free all the time, and I think we've been asleep."

The ill will between Murdoch and Google is building on the back of significantly reduced traffic to MySpace. MySpace has a lucrative search deal in place with Google that may be one of the reasons the paid content work around has not been addressed before. With significantly increased competition from Facebook pushing MySpace into a second place spot in the social networking scene, MySpace has missed traffic goals set by Google. The shortfall in traffic equates to the potential for the loss of more than $100 million in income from the Google search deal.

As Murdoch ramps up his schemes to make money off the internet, Google CEO Eric Schmidt continues to scoff at Murdoch's plans. Schmidt has said in the past, "In general these models (paid online content) have not worked for general public consumption because there are enough free sources that the marginal value of paying is not justified based on the incremental value of quantity. So my guess is for niche and specialist markets ... it will be possible to do it but I think it is unlikely that you will be able to do it for all news."

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Google is helping news companies
By HotFoot on 11/9/2009 10:55:08 AM , Rating: 2
Google's news aggregation is one of the best things, IMO, that's come to the web in recent memory. It's basically advertising for news companies publishing on the internet. I don't read the news on Google - I use Google to find stories and read them on the publisher's website. So... Google is boosting traffic through the news publisher's websites. What's the problem, exactly?

RE: Google is helping news companies
By amanojaku on 11/9/2009 11:16:57 AM , Rating: 3
The problem is a newspaper has a price tag from as little as $0.25USD (e.g. The New York Post) to $2.50 (e.g. The New York Times a few years ago), and that helps recoup some of its costs.

Online news is free for access, which, when coupled with bandwidth costs, means a larger debt that needs to be made up. If the ads aren't doing it then the company needs to find another way to recoup its costs. I'm not against online news companies charging for access; everything costs money and no one wants to work for free. The problem is the Internet has largely been free for years and this is a HUGE change in culture. Sort of like everyone in the States learning to eat with chopsticks when we grew up on forks.

I say let Murdoch do this. The best thing we would loose is arguably the WSJ, and I don't read it, anyway. I could give a damn about Fox News and the New York Post.

By HotFoot on 11/9/2009 11:32:26 AM , Rating: 3
For sure. If a news site wants me to pay a subscription, I might just decide it's worth it if I think their content is worth it over the freely-available alternatives. It wouldn't take too high of a subscription fee to be very profitable given the kind of readership a company like Reuters can reach.

Another note - I think bandwidth costs have got to be orders of magnitude cheaper than printing costs.

By MrBlastman on 11/9/2009 12:14:59 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is (:P), if they DO charge for it, they darned well better up the bar as far as their writing quality is concerned. This means NOT recycling AP articles all day long. The content has improved over the years, but it still has quite a ways to go--for both CNN and Fox's websites. I don't get a migraine quite as often now as I did, but, some of the content still seems to be written by someone in middle school.

I really hate to say this but The New York Times (I'm trying to remain politically neutral here) writers have both CNN and Fox's beat by several astral units worth of distance. They have also been charging for some of their online content for quite some time (or at least they were at one point, I do not go there often).

I'll gladly chip in a little coin if they were make the words that slide off the page a wonderful melody of occular pleasure. If they don't, I'll just read recycled AP articles somewhere else.

RE: Google is helping news companies
By artemicion on 11/9/2009 1:10:03 PM , Rating: 3
News aggregation is killing the news industry. It's turned into a situation where the parasites are killing the host. Ground level news companies and reporters are eating the cost of gathering the news while news aggregation sites (like DailyTech) are getting an (almost) free lunch. Even if the news site doesn't charge a subscription, their main revenue comes from advertising. If DailyTech and other sites can link and summarize their articles by finding them with Google, they reduce the number of visitors to the host site because a lot of people (including me) only read the blurb from DailyTech and never go to the actual news site, thus reducing their number of visitors, thus reducing their ad revenue.

No doubt that news aggregators are a great tool for consumers like us, but eventually the business model for news sites that do the ground level reporting are going to have to either adapt or die. Murdoch is trying to prevent Google from indexing their site so it's harder for news aggregators to get to them. I think another possibility is that news sites will start to display their content in formats that Google can't read easily, like displaying their articles with images instead of text, or utilizing Flash, or something like that. A worse possibility is that news sites will try to drastically cut costs to adapt by either converting to news aggregation themselves, or start getting sloppy with their reporting by hiring less investigative reporters and hiring cheaper, less talented reporters.

RE: Google is helping news companies
By MozeeToby on 11/9/2009 2:29:08 PM , Rating: 2
The industry is dead, it just hasn't stopped moving yet. And it doesn't have anything to do with news aggregation services. The costs of hard-copy distribution are massive compared to digital which has lead to poorer and poorer quality and an over-reliance on wirefeed services, making every newspaper in the country 90% identical to each other. No major newspaper has attempted to adapt to the new market, a market with near 0 distribution costs and a million competitors offering similar services for the price of free. This has made it easy for alternatives to move in; TV news, blogs, and mailing lists to name a few.

Volounteer journalism is a scary thought, but it is what we are undeniably heading towards. Eventually, someone will figure out how to track reputations, measure bias, and (of course) monetize it and we'll be right back to the way things were. The only long term consequence being that anyone can, at any time, write a newsbreaking story and have it reach a national audience. And don't say that will lead to lies and misinformation; that's like saying that linux must be full of bugs, viruses, and backdoors because anyone can submit a patch.

Don't underestimate the power of the people when it comes to this kind of thing. In the tech world, companies are just learning that opening an API leads to massive innovation from the community. The same will be true of media. Open up the submission process, come up with a good way to rank and rate the submissions, and you'll have more and higher quality journalism available overnight.

By celticbrewer on 11/9/2009 3:08:33 PM , Rating: 2
Cheers. Great post!

All reporting now is essentially biased whether the reporter does it intentionally or not. That won't change. There are already lies and misinformation. The difference is that paid journalists can be fired. They have some sort of incentive to report facts without bias.

I have written articles since my high school newspaper. I always covered topics of my own interest (mainly computers) and I have always spun a positive light on who, back then, were considered geeks, nerds, and social outcasts. Someone could do the same story with the same facts and make those people live up to the negative stereotypes.

One only has to look so far as Religion, Politics, and Operating Systems to see how easily people are led by the media and opinions without stopping to consider the facts.

But if news is free, who is going to pay for fact checkers or building a content review system?

By Bruneauinfo on 11/9/2009 3:57:25 PM , Rating: 2
if not for Dailytech-like sites on the web I would not read any of this stuff. Its not like we all used to have subscriptions to science journals.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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