The next battle in the search wars could be over access to news content. The FT reports that Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) — which has made increasing the market share of its Bing search engine its top online priority — has reached out to “big online publishers” in order to get them to pull their sites from Google (NSDQ: GOOG). Among the parties currently in discussions with Microsoft is News Corp. (NYSE: NWS), which has very loudly threatened to block search engines from crawling the content of its newspapers.
Unclear how far along these discussions are, although TechCrunch also reported a week ago that Microsoft had a meeting with representatives from top British papers, including the Financial Times, about giving their content “premium positions” on Bing.
This report seems to take that a step further since not only would Microsoft presumably be giving the content of its partners better play, it would also be paying to ensure that their content could not be found directly via the search engine of its arch-rival.
That would give Bing bragging rights to something Google does not have. Its other attempts at doing so haven’t been as successful. For instance, after it announced a deal with Twitter to feature Tweets from the microblog in real-time, Google followed up with its own agreement hours later.
For the newspapers, of course, the question is whether Microsoft’s dollars can make up for the loss of traffic that Google generates for them.
Online publishers would likely demand top dollar. Asked about the possibility last week, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said he wasn’t convinced even Microsoft could afford it: “If they were to pay everybody for everything they took, from every newspaper in the world and every magazine they wouldn