Murdoch v Google Round 1

In newspapers, Rupert Murdoch still very much matters. In the internet, his influence may not be as keenly felt, but when he speaks, people still listen, especially when what he says hints at blocking search engines from his news sites. How likely is this to happen, and is this a Murdoch misstep or will he surprise us yet again?

It's worth just quickly starting with paid:content's report. Murdoch didn't exactly say that his publications would block search engines, as he seems to be unsure of how his own publication, the Wall Street Journal, currently handles search.

The consensus on Twitter seems to be that Murdoch would be shooting himself in the foot by withdrawing from Google and Google News. As Charles Arthur notes, Google are unlikely to be troubled by this.

More than that, if Techcrunch are to be believed the WSJ gets around twenty-five per cent of its traffic from Google and Google News.

Even if this is some plan to get more people buying into the content he's locked down behind a paywall, it still doesn't totally make sense. People still have to find the content somehow (although I suspect The Times, Sun, WSJ et al would only need a fraction of their current users to pay in order to make a decent amount of cash).

Is this a case of a big beast of the old media not really getting the internet? Some would point to MySpace as another example, but I'm not so sure. At the time it was probably a decent buy (not any more, though) and it's not like Murdoch is the only person from traditional media to make a less-than-stellar purchase of a popular online company. Hell, enough online companies make the same mistake.

Murdoch clearly thinks he's onto something and it would be more beneficial to him to be out of Google's directories than in it. Personally, I think he's mad in this regard - SEO is hugely important for newspapers -but there's always the nagging sense that he might be working on a masterplan that will have us all in awe.

And it's also worth remembering that if he somehow convinces a new Conservative government to break up the BBC's online news offering (not beyond the realms of possibility) then suddenly Murdoch will be in a lot stronger position. Albeit still without SEO or Google ranking.

My own feeling is that Murdoch thinks he can take on Google in a straight fight, much as he took on the UK newspaper market and won. But he may not have realised that the game has changed slightly.

Google isn't in competition with Murdoch's empire - at least not directly, and not where journalism is concerned. Google also probably won't be too fussed if Murdoch's publications remove themselves from the directory. It's not like there aren't plenty of other news sites out there.

Murdoch strikes me as one of those from the old school who seems Google and others as being parasitic. But the trouble with parasites is that unless you find a way to manage them, they will eventually kill their host Murdoch would do well to keep this in mind.