What Rupert Murdoch’s Decision Means

rupert-murdoch-on-sky-sToday, Rupert Murdoch said he was going to remove his websites from Google’s index. This includes major publications like the Wall Street Journal – among others. This aligns with his latest strategy of charging for content maintaining a clear model on how news organizations will monetize – by charging people to consume their content.

Your first thought is “Why would he do that? That’s suicide for a website”. When you sit down and think about it – there are huge implications and a real strategy behind it. The strategy behind this move is obvious as content distribution has begun to flow through the social graph rather than via search. This change in content flow has remarkedly increased the relevancy of the burgeoning link economy – whereas content is ranked by inbound links that are defined through the social graph.

This means that if a news story is posted by 1,000 people on Facebook pointing to “Source A” and the same story is posted by 500 people on Facebook pointing to “Source B” – “Source A” wins out. This is the new link economy and another reason why local newspapers are failing.

In a world where links are currency and the social graph is our marketplace search inevitably becomes less important.

While I think the link economy is a huge step forward in how content is consumed, I still have my doubts. This is where my disconnect occurs with Murdoch’s strategy -> While the link economy model works in real time, you are still leaving out the long tail of news contentsearch.

Mark Cuban says this is a brilliant move for News Corp as Facebook and Twitter become the primary drivers for content distribution. This is correct in the real-time scenario we discussed above but still lacks a long tail strategy. If I want to find information and news articles about the Iowa Flood of 2008 I’ll generally rely on search rather than perusing through the disorganized mess that is Facebook and Twitter archives. Beyond that, you can’t even get to Twitter timelines more than 3 months back – so how does that help?

Strategy aside – what other implications does this have? When I heard the news I immediately had the same thought as Jason Calacanis (that’s good, right?). A couple weeks ago Doug and I had a conversation about net neutrality – how it would affect the net and small businesses who operate on it. I brought up a sickening thought of content silos and walled gardens where telco companies had control over how that content was to be consumed.

We talked about how this model threatened the state of the web as we know it. TimeWarner could easily shut off its content and only distribute it on its own networks to its own subscribers – say only people using Comcast. On the other hand they could block their competitors content. In my scenario Comcast would, for instance, block YouTube and only allow Hulu. They could also block Google because Microsoft had paid them to only let Bing search their content…

This is exactly where Calacanis is going with his post… Suppose Murdoch has his News Corp sites block all search spiders except for the highest bidder. In this hypothetical scenario Microsoft would pay $20 million a year for Bing to have exclusive rights to spider its content while blocking the Google search engine. This would fundamentally shift the web as we know it.

As Jason says in his email…

So, for a moment, imagine a world where Bing could say in their TV commercials:

“Want to search the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and
3,894 other newspapers and magazine?”

This is huge news. This could change the web – especially with the richest man in the world inducing the change.

What do you think? Do you like Murdoch’s strategy? What do you think about a world where search engines have exclusive rights because they are the highest bidder?

Let us know in the comments

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6 Responses to What Rupert Murdoch’s Decision Means

  1. Brian Kaldenberg November 10, 2009 at 1:48 am #

    Very nice well written article. Almost as if you had a bowl of ice cream first.

  2. Eyebee November 10, 2009 at 11:13 pm #

    My first thought, as I don't normally have in interest in reading News Corp's tabloid trash, and biased news output, often lacking real substance, and full of sensationalist sound bites to stir up the dedicated non-thinkers among us, my first thought is good riddance to bad crap.

    However, the scenario of having say Microsoft willing to pay to have search rights in News Corp's sites is a frightening prospect, as it could well change the Internet as we know it.

    Let's hope Murdoch's actions don't screw up the Internet as he has done with traditional media.

    • abrudtkuhl November 11, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

      I also don't read many of Murdoch's publications unless a link crosses my path (which may or may not help prove his point) but I think the potential direction this takes the web as a whole is no good.

  3. app103 November 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

    Stop and think about this from a user’s perspective and see the big picture and the flaw in letting Bing exclusively spider News Corp’s content:

    You are doing a search for something and come upon a result leading to a News Corp owned site. You click through and are hit with a “you have to pay to read this” notice.

    How do you feel about that? Would you like to see search results that do not contain links such as this? Do you regard them as spam? Bait & switch?

    In order to move to a full “pay to read” business model, they have no choice but to remove their content from Google’s index, since Google’s rules forbid showing their spiders one page and a different one to those that click through from the results page. The only thing that could be spidered on a “pay to read” model is the content on the page that says you have to pay to read it.

    This has repeatedly been an issue with sites like experts-exchange, which most regard as spam in their results.

    Even for those that do see the content for free when visiting from Google, they can’t bookmark the pages and come back to them later, since they will then be shown the “you have to pay” page since they are not coming directly from Google this time.

    People don’t even like the idea of registration to read it for free, as shown by the millions of complaints over the years about the NYT content that was blocked with this method.

    In the end, the winner will be the guy that decides to be one of the few paying customers of News Corp, with the express purpose of rewriting all their news content and publishing it on his own site for free access.

    And before you think he can’t get away with that without being sued, reading a news story and writing your own version of it isn’t copyright infringement. You can’t copyright the facts of the news itself, only the wording of the articles telling about it.

    If News Corp really does move to a full “pay to read” model and other news sites follow suit, I’ll probably give up programming, hire a bunch of my friends, and we’ll take up rewriting articles, full time. I’ll gladly consider my subscription price to be an investment, as I pick up all their lost traffic.

    • Eyebee November 11, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

      I certainly wasn't thinking that Bing getting some sort of exclusivity was a 'good thing'.

      I was merely making a personal observation that I don't trust or read their news content now, let alone if I had to pay for it.

      As for the Experts-Exchange scenario, I agree. When I'm looking to find a 'how-to' it's annoying if you click on one of those links, only to go in a level or so, to be told you need to pay. Not so much I consider it spam, but time wasting.

    • abrudtkuhl November 11, 2009 at 3:22 pm #

      Great points and something that definitely needs to be considered when thinking about this. I dont think the bait & switch model is good for users – and in some cases not for the company either.

      Perfect example with the Experts Exchange model. There's nothing I hate more than searching for a programming related question and accidentally going to experts exchange.

      If that day comes – count me in!

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