Rupert Murdoch has been whining for months about Google and other Internet search sites “stealing” his content. His complaint is that web users seeking information will search on sites like Google and then be directed to News Corp pages like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. This is apparently something to which he objects.
It is hard to find any logic in his complaints. If traffic is directed to his web sites it increases his page views, which permits him to charge more for advertising. It also presents an opportunity to convert those readers into loyal customers from whom he can solicit subscription fees. It is difficult to grasp what he is so upset about. Particularly since he can put an end to it all by simply placing a line or two of code in a file (robots.txt) that will restrict Google and others from indexing his sites and sending them more traffic.
Murdoch’s lament has evolved into a threat to remove his sites from Google. Of course, Google has long made known that he could do that at any time. What really makes this impotent threat even more perplexing is that he is now saying that he will carry it out in conjunction with his intent to make his sites accessible only to paying customers. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that once he constructs his pay wall, the content would not be available to Google’s users anyway. In effect he is saying that he will withhold his content from people who already can’t access it. That’ll show ’em.
During the interview Murdoch demonstrated his ignorance of the Internet and his own businesses. He asserted that the Wall Street Journal already did bar non-subscribers. That isn’t entirely true. If you search for an article on the WSJ site, you will only be able to view a paragraph without signing up. But you can search for the same article on Google and read the whole thing. Once again, that’s under Murdoch’s control, not Google’s.
Murdoch also demonstrated his hypocrisy. While he is slamming Google and other content aggregators for linking to his properties, he is doing the very same thing with his Fox Nation web site. Fox Nation is nothing more than a hub for news items from other sources. So Murdoch, by his own definition is “stealing” their content.
The Sky interview also covered Murdoch’s views about the BBC, which he called a “scandal.” Clearly he is disturbed by a publicly supported news enterprise that is committed to providing news and information for free, while he is anxiously plotting to close off his content to anyone unwilling to feather his nest. He has even threatened to sue other news providers for copyright infringement. Someone might want to inform him that, unless you overtly plagiarize an article, the news does not belong to anyone. If Fox reports on a shooting in Texas, they cannot prevent me from reporting the same thing, so long as I don’t cut and paste their story verbatim.
I can’t wait until Murdoch comes through on his threats to cut off Google and to bar access to his web sites. Reducing the amount of garbage that Murdoch showers on the world will be a big contribution to journalism and the advancement of knowledge.