Murdoch serious about split from Google as talks held with Microsoft

Looks like Rupert Murdoch wasn’t simple sabre ratting (as fun as that is) about splitting from Google. It is being reported this morning that News Corporation is in talks with Microsoft about a possible split with the search giant.

According to a report in the Financial Times the plan would involve News Corp being paid to “de-index” its news websites from Google.

Getting in bed with Microsoft makes perfect sense. Microsoft hates Google (and its plans for applications and an operating system) as much as it hates Apple and it would set up a real search engine battle between Google and Bing. Until now it doesn’t feel like we have much of a fight although ComScore says Bing is gaining ground. In October it accounted for 9.9% per cent of searches in the US in October up from 8.4% per cent at its launch.

Still it feels more like a one party state – if more fun than your average Stalinist party get together.

The paper says that although talks are at an early stage Microsoft has approached other big online publishers, but mentions no names.

Newspaper publishers would like nothing more to stop Google acting like a parasite on their businesses. As well as News Corp, which owns The Times, The Sun and The Wall Street Journal, other publishers including Guardian News & Media have also raised concerns over Google.

The FT says that one publisher said Microsoft’s plan “puts enormous value on content if search engines are prepared to pay us to index with them” and added that the move was “all about Microsoft hurting Google’s margins”.

The talks with Microsoft come as News Corp delays plans until early next year to erect a pay wall around its content.

Although we do know as of last week from James Harding, the editor of The Times, that the paper would launch a subscription service for online access early next year making it likely that the paper would be the first News Corp title to implement a system of paid content.

Rupert Murdoch, of course, recently hit out at Google in an interview he gave to Sky News Australia where he questioned the value it brings to newspapers.

“No[ it's not a two way street with Google sending traffic] What’s the point of someone coming occasionally who likes a headline they see on Google? Sure we go out and say we have so many millions of visitors. The fact is that there is not enough advertising in the world to go around to make all the websites profitable. We’d rather have fewer people coming to our websites but paying. They don’t suddenly become loyal readers of our websites.”



  • A Different Hat

    The debate goes on and, as I think I have commented before, the only feasible way forward is for publishers to realise they are never going to get readers to pay for their traditional offline brands via one subscription.
    Any reader of any newspaper only wants certain parts of that content, whether it is Page 3 or Sport or even a crossword or cartoon.
    So they might as well offer ‘General News’ for free because people are going to get that anyway (from the BBC or whoever).
    Then they need to ‘unbundle’ their readership by area of interest.
    Take a Murdoch title like the Sunday Times. When readers buy the newspaper, do they ALL read ALL of the supplements? Of course not. They chuck half of them away. So, online, they are not going to pay for what they don’t want but they may pay for analysis and insight and good journalism in the areas of interest they DO have.
    Why do Sports sections exist in The Sunday Times? Readers know the results of the games the day before, but they ALSO want to read about the game and be part of the debate – because this is what they talk about with their friends. They need a point of view from recognised and talented experts and they are likely to pay for this.
    This principle applies to many areas of interest, even within the supplements. For example, in the Arts supplement, it is not necessarily the case that people who like reading books also like opera.
    I’m afraid these publishers need to do the work, and invest the money, in finding out who their readership are and what interests they have. Then they need to respond to the data by developing creative ways of charging for that content.
    It is the same principle as the Tesco Clubcard. If you can’t be bothered to find out what your customers want and develop strategies to cater for their particular needs, then don’t expect them to pay you for what you don’t want.
    It is that old micro-payment thing again.
    It is not enough to simply bung your offline content online and expect people to pay up for a load of stuff they don’t want.

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