Like many media moguls, Rupert Murdoch keeps accusing Google of unfairly monetizing his sites’ content by indexing and selling ads next to search results that contain links to it. Now he’s talking about fighting back, by taking the simple step of instituting fees for access to News Corp. online properties and then blocking Google from indexing them.
As Staci Kramer of PaidContent points out, it’s not entirely clear what Murdoch is talking about, or even that he knows what he’s talking about. He says this strategy would be similar to what the Wall Street Journal does, but while the Journal does indeed have a pay wall, it actually lowers it for visitors who arrive from Google.
As far as I know, no major media sites are currently actively preventing Google from crawling their content or otherwise trying to prevent the company from helping people find stories and making money along the way. (A half a decade ago, some publishers–including IDG, where I worked at the time–checked to see if visitors were arriving from Google and told ones who were to come back via the home page–but the experiment was futile, self-destructive, and short-lived.)
I’m probably in the the minority among my media-industry peers here–and it may be a minority of one–but I (A) think Murdoch’s plan is a silly, self-defeating idea, and (B) hope that he does indeed put it into action.
- I’m tired of hearing media executives whine about Google without doing anything about its alleged misconduct. It’s extremely easy to configure a Web site to prevent Google from crawling it. So why don’t these sites that are so nonplussed about being in Google’s index opt out? If Murdoch blocks Google, he’ll at least be safe from charges of inconsistency and/or hypocrisy.
- I’m in favor of multiple business models for content sites. Technologizer is doing fine as a mostly ad-supported enterprise, thank you very much, but the media business will ultimately be healthier if there are multiple potential revenue streams–ads, monthly subscriptions, maybe even pay-per-use for some stuff. You know, kind of like TV. If News Corp. goes through with this, I’ll at least give it credit for experimenting rather than dithering.
- I’m willing to pay for some stuff. Yes, that attitude is colored to some degree by the fact that I’m in the media biz myself, and no, I can’t think offhand of any News Corp. properties I’m dying to shower in money. (I don’t even have a WSJ subscription at the moment.) But I’d rather live in a world in which some consumers get used to paying for some online content than in one in which sites are doomed if they can’t make a go of things based on advertising alone.
- Watching other people gamble is constructive. If the Murdoch paywall flops as spectacularly as most folks think it will, it’ll be a useful confirmation that everybody was right in the first place. If it’s disappointing, but less so than everyone expects, that’s useful information, too. And if it somehow pays off, other media sites can claim they knew it would all along, and rush to imitate the News Corp. approach.
But enough about my reaction to Rupert’s ruminations. You?