Arianna Huffington used her 25 minutes at the FTC’s How Will Journalism Survive The Internet Age? conference to take News Corp (NYSE: NWS). CEO Rupert Murdoch and his executives to task for their remarks comparing news aggregators to “parasites,” “tech tapeworms,” and “thieves:” “Apparently, some in the old media have decided that it is, in fact, an either/or game and that the best way to save, if not journalism, at least themselves, is by pointing fingers and calling names,” she said. “In most industries, if your customers were leaving in droves, you would try to figure out what to do to get them back.”
Huffington went on to imply that Murdoch wasn’t being exactly forthright in his complaints. Not only do many News Corp. properties aggregate content themselves — but Murdoch could easily stop Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and sites like the Huff Post from pulling his content now if he wanted to. “We link to the Wall Street Journal daily. We have never had a single complaint,” she said. “We drive a lot of traffic to them and they like it.”
As for Murdoch’s discussions with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) about getting that company to pay it to remove its content from Google, Huffington called it one of a series of “desperate revenue models” under consideration and said she did not believe it would come to pass. She noted that news publishers — like the NYT — had repeatedly delayed plans to even make decisions about introducing paywalls: “Free content is not without problems, but it’s here to stay and publishers need to come to terms with that.”
Of course, the Huff Post‘s free model isn’t making it profits right now, although Huffington did say that the site’s advertising revenue continued to increase.
We didn’t listen in to Murdoch’s talk Staci covered Murdoch’s talk (via Twitter here), which included his usual themes. “To paraphrase a great economist, there is no such thing as a free news story,” Murdoch said, insisting News Corp’s plans to charge will ensure “fair, modest’ fees. He also, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report, had harsh words for sites that he said were engaged in “wholesale misappropriation” of articles. “These people are not investing in journalism,” Murdoch said. “They’re feeding off the hard-earned efforts and investments of others.”