A seismic shift is underway in the media world that could safeguard the future of imperilled news publishers and sever the umbilical cord between you and Google.
As we’ve written before, the media has been having a terrible time of late, as the Internet has ravaged its content and made much of it available for free. Publishers’ profits have plunged, many jobs have been cut and boards have searched in vain for a business model that works in the Google era.
Now, Rupert Murdoch has had enough of what he sees as the theft of his content by search engines, and is pushing back in typically robust style. As predicted recently, he has moved to enforce ‘pay-walls’ around the websites of News Corp’s newspapers. This week, news broke that he’s looking at a deal that would ‘de-index’ News Corp’s websites from Google and instead award that privilege to Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine, in return for a fee.
At this stage, there’s no consensus on whether this is a good idea or if it can be made to work. Evangelists for free online news, like Jeff Jarvis, say this is yet more evidence that Murdoch totally fails to ‘get it’ when it comes to the Internet and that trying to screen his content behind pay-walls is futile and self-defeating. In the opposing corner is the FT’s John Gapper who thinks that maybe Murdoch knows something we’ve all missed and that this “could be a pivotal moment in Internet economics”. Although Murdoch’s titles will experience a steep decline in traffic as a result of this move, he may still end up financially better off, as Gapper explains.
If this plan comes to fruition (and isn’t just a bargaining ploy with Google) it could be an approach adopted by other publishers desperate to stem their financial losses. There could be a future in journalism after all.
The other point of interest is what this means for the search engine market. When Bing was launched earlier this year we weren’t optimistic that it would threaten Google’s stranglehold on search (about 60% of the US market and a whopping 80% in the UK). However, Gapper discloses that Microsoft is talking to other content publishers about deals similar to Murdoch’s, which could give Bing an increasing amount of the content that people really want. As a result, we may yet see real competition emerge in the search market, which can only be a good thing for the rest of us.