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Video: Murdoch Making News Invisible To Search Engines? Not So Fast

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Rupert Murdoch was in Sydney for the latest News Corp earnings call but that wasn’t the only talking he did down under. The News Corp (NYSE: NWS). chairman and CEO was interviewed by some of his own newsies, including a lengthy video session with Sky News political editor David Speers, embedded below. As it spun through Twitter, Murdoch was claiming his sites will remove themselves from Google (NSDQ: GOOG). Well, yes and no. He did say “I think we will” when asked if they would start blocking search engines, adding that it would be as sites start charging. Then he brought up the Wall Street Journal as an example. The problem? Murdoch doesn’t seem to know how the Journal actually handles Google.

For instance, I just found two WSJ stories through Google and was able to read each of them in different browsers. Clicking a second story from the article page brought up a promo about how I could see more of the Journal free online — if I register — but I could still read the story. Third story — I was blocked. (I’m a subscriber but logged out to test this.) The Journal isn’t invisible — but much of it can be impenetrable after a certain point.

Here’s how Murdoch replied when Speers asked why he hasn’t blocked sites from being seen by search engines: “I think we will. But that’s when we start charging. We do it already with the Wall Street Journal. We have a wall, but it’s not right to the ceiling. You can get the first paragraph of any story but if you’re not a paying subscriber, you get a paragraph and a subscription form.” He also raised the idea of challenging the doctrine of “fair use” in court, then reigned it in a bit. “We’re getting a lot of advertising revenue so we’ll take that slowly.” The conversation about pay walls starts near the top of the video.

Soon after that Murdoch talks about how newspapers may evolve: “Everyone can afford a newspaper. They’re the cheapest things in the world and what you get out of it is fabulous. And it will be even cheaper when you get it electronically.”

(via @mathewi and mUmbrella)

8 Responses to “Video: Murdoch Making News Invisible To Search Engines? Not So Fast”

  1. PaulLomax

    @displaywonk – I think the WSJ are simply using digital subs as a way to make print subs more attractive… a pricing strategy.

    And I think Murdoch is going to go down the same lines with his other brands.

    He's clueless about online, but he's bloody good at selling packages – see Sky TV…

  2. displaywonk

    I was wondering when someone would notice this. Have never NOT been able to get around the paywall of the Journal with boolean logic and Google. I'll buy the "we will make money with subs" logic only when WSJ reveals exactly how many subs they are getting unbundled from print.

  3. Sean Carlos

    The heart of the problem with most news today is that it has become a true commodity – low in value and easy to find.

    Sure there are a few sources of original quality news remaining – in English, The BBC, The New York Times and The Economist come to mind. But even the quality sources of news are multiple – and to the extent one of them remains “free” (ad or non-profit foundation supported), there won’t be sufficient scarcity to support the paid content model on the web. That is just plain economics.

    While Wall Street Journal is one of the pioneers of paid content on the web, financial news is, and will remain, a niche. In some areas, local news could possibly be funded by a paid model but even there, is the quality sufficient to drive demand? I doubt it.

    In Italy, one publisher has suggested a tax on Internet connections to fund news sources. While that does seem to be an easy solution for publishers, it unfairly penalizes the vast number of people who aren’t interested in subsidizing the vast numbers of dubious “quality” news sources out there, Murdoch’s own US Fox “News” topping my list.

  4. John Blossom

    "And it will be even cheaper when you get it electronically."


    Grant you, I do think that a good deal of what Mr. Murdoch has said in this interview has been taken out of context, but I am surprised at how both Mr. Murdoch and other senior media executives have a hard time expressing how it is that they're going to make money effectively in today's online publishing environment. They express ideas that sometimes are either not in sync with what is actually achievable in an online environment or seem to wish away fundamental premises of economics and law.

    I have no doubt that there will be increased efforts to provide paid access to content from major media organisations; some of those efforts are long overdue and probably necessary and, if implemented properly, welcome efforts to build more effective business models. But for heaven's sake, please get some management in place that can express these ideas clearly to the public and to investors.

    John Blossom
    Shore Communications Inc.

  5. Stephen Phillips

    After a decade of mostly failed monetization efforts, the Spotify model of flat monthly subscription for all you can eat music may save the industry.

    Instead of calling aggregators names, news publishers should be working together to develop an open model for syndicating content and thereby creating a new marketplace for the next generation of news apps to emerge.

    If the big publishers start doing what the record labels are doing right now, and begin licencing news aggregators to resell their premium content for flat monthly fees, I believe we will see an explosion of new models for enhancing the news experience. This will save and grow the industry into the future.

    The lesson from the music industry is for publishers to not try and solve the problem themselves, but create a marketplace for the web entrepreneurs to innovate and solve the problem organically for them.