What Lies Behind Murdoch's Move to Block Google?

Another shrewd business move, or has the cantankerous media mogul gone too far?

This article is from the archive of our partner .

News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch has proven his massive appetite for risk, snapping up dead-tree newspapers during a digital boom. Now he's vowing to take another risk, erecting pay walls around his content and shutting out Google (as well as Bing and Ask.com). Just what is Murdoch after? He shared his plans in a TV interview with Sky News Australia, which he owns. He suggests that content from News Corp. newspapers--which include the Wall Street Journal and New York Post--will no longer appear on Google or other search engine results. This builds on his overall strategy of making users pay to read online.

  • 'He's Bluffing' Writing for The Moderate Voice, Kathy Gill accuses Murdoch of misunderstanding the newspaper industry's business model:  "Murdoch trots out the claim that readers have always 'paid' for their news by purchasing a newspaper. This is false; readers pay for the convenience of having the content delivered — advertisers have footed the bill for content creation." She goes on to profess utter bewilderment at his anti-Google stance. Is it posturing? Even so, it doesn't makes sense to her: "The only content that you can charge for is content that can’t be found elsewhere, content on which you hold a monopoly, in other words. That’s why I think Murdoch is bluffing, although I’ve no idea why he’s bluffing."
  • A Grave Miscalculation Boing Boing's staunch Creative-Commons supporter Cory Doctorow finds Murdoch's pronouncements hilarious. He offers an explanation for Murdoch's gambit: "He's hoping is that a second-tier search engine like Bing or Ask (or, better yet, some search tool you've never heard of that just got $50MM in venture capital) will give him half a year's operating budget in exchange for a competitive advantage over Google." Doctrow is willing to bet that one search engine will take up Murdoch's offer, but says the move will fail because Murdoch's properties don't have more value to consumers than other news sources.
  • Senility  Truthdig's Peter Z. Scheer is one of many bloggers joking that Murdoch may not be all there. He credits the mogul with trying to save the entire industry by sheer force, but slams his methods: "There was a time, not too long ago, when there was no Google and newspapers tried to charge people for online content. It didn’t work.Google has succeeded where newspapers have failed because from the beginning the company embraced the new media paradigm: Information wants to be free. On the other hand, it would be nice to no longer have to see Fox News headlines in Google News."
  • Misplaced-Nostalgia  Mediaite's Glynnis MacNicol similarly says that Murdoch's move is like attempting to build a time-machine to return to a pre-Internet era: "The saying 'cutting off your nose to spite your face' comes to mind. Love it or hate it, taking yourself off Google seems like the 2.0 equivalent to removing yourself from the newsstand and relocation behind a secret door only the chosen few have a key to."
  • Brilliance In striking contrast to most other commentators, several members of a Guardian panel of journalists and industry leaders agree that Murdoch's move is not only workable, but welcome. As Guido Fawkes blogger Paul Staines puts it: "There is no technical reason why Murdoch can't introduce a paywall around his content. The partial paywall works well for the Wall Street Journal and it is now America's favourite paper…I'd love the paywall, it would boost blog traffic and advertising revenue for me." Updated 2:10 pm: Outspoken HDNet Chair and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban praises Murdoch's maneuver on his blog, claiming that the ascent of Twitter will ultimately undermine Google's preeminence when it comes to breaking news. In his words:
TWITTER POSSES NO THREAT to any destination news site. 140 characters does not a story make.  Find it on twitter, link to a story on say, FoxNews and everyone is happy. The same concept applies to Facebook Links. Twitter and Facebook are not news  destinations that can compete with traditional news sources.  Google is.  Rupert loves him some twitter. Google, not so much.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.