My friend Farrell forwarded an article from Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News:
Rupert Murdoch has warned internet search engines the time has come for them to pay for news content.
The News Corp chief executive said sites such as Google and Yahoo, which take content from a range of sources, would soon be charged for the service.
This is totally within Murdoch’s right and if he wants to put his content behind a paywall he should. The New York Times used to do this with much of their exclusive content, like columnists, but later relented.
If taken at his word, Murdoch could implement a change to cut off search engines now.
To stop search engines from indexing your site you simply add a tiny text file to the root directory. It’s beyond simple and can be totally accomplished with one line of code. The Journal, or any news site, could do that in a few minutes.
Not only is that not what Murdoch’s doing–he is doing the opposite!
If you go to the Wall Street Journal site you’ll find many (not all) stories run for a few paragraphs and then stop with “…” Here’s an example I found in a link from the Journal’s home page:
It’s obvious the story continues, but it only continues for subscribers.
However, if you enter that same sentence fragment into Google you get a link to the full Journal story!
The Google link and the direct link from WSJ’s home page produce the same URL link. I believe WSJ’s website is configured to deliver the full content when the referrer is Google or Yahoo!, etc.¹
The URL for the Sky News story I quoted at the beginning of this post is optimized to make it more visible to search engines. Many of the story’s key words are embedded in it: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Business/News-Corp-Chief-Executive-Rupert-Murdoch-Tells-World-Media-Summit-Search-Engines-Must-Pay-For-News/Article/200910215402865?lpos=Business_First_Buisness_Article_Teaser_Region_0&lid=ARTICLE_15402865_News_Corp_Chief_Executive_Rupert_Murdoch_Tells_World_Media_Summit_Search_Engines_Must_Pay_For_News_.
The Journal and Sky probably do this because search engines drive traffic to their sites. Without the search engines wsj.com and sky.com would see a lot fewer hits. They are making money from those hits–though certainly not as much as they want nor probably not enough to survive in their current business model.
Murdoch blames the search engines, but the truth is the entire business model for advertiser supported information is broken. The type of journalism the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other ‘classic’ news sources provide is dependent on selling high cost advertising.
Unfortunately, the same eyeball on the net is worth a lot less than in the paper or on TV. It’s a matter of supply and demand. The Internet has opened up the supply so there’s nearly an infinite number of places to run your ad.
Murdoch will grouse and yell and flail like the bully he’s always been–but he’s screwed and he knows it. He’s not in that boat alone. Mass media as we know it is terribly ill.
¹ – My research on this is less than voluminous. How they do it isn’t as important as the fact they do it.