UPDATED: News Corp. in Discussions with Microsoft to De-List Content from Google

By: E&P Staff

For weeks News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his executives have been taking Google and other aggregators to task calling them “content kleptomaniacs.” There was much industry speculation that Murdoch was more talk than anything.

However, the Financial Times revealed on Sunday that Microsoft and News Corp. are in discussions to “de-index” News Corp. content from Google, paving the way for a possible exclusive relationship with Microsoft’s new search engine Bing.

FT reporters Matthew Garrahan, Richard Waters and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson also disclosed that Microsoft has approached other publishers with a similar pitch.

One unnamed publisher approached by Microsoft told the FT that Microsoft’s offer “puts enormous value on content if search engines are prepared to pay us to index with them.”

Google is trying to downplay the importance of aggregating newspaper content. A Google UK director told a conference of editors that newspapers did not account for much of Google’s revenue, according to the FT.

Newspapers in the United States have been vacillating on whether or not to charge for online content over the past year. Very few publishers have made a move to start charging for some content. There are some exceptions, including Newsday, which put its content fully behind a paywall in October. The Star Tribune in Minneapolis requires payment for specialized Viking content.

The FT also charges for some of its content.

Going directly to the search engines and aggregators could be a more efficient way to wring revenue for content.

Yet, the talks between Microsoft and News Corp. could be more about creating a bargaining chip with Google, suggests Ken Doctor, an affiliate analyst with Outsell Research and author of the upcoming book “Newsonomics.”

“There is a moment in history where there is true competition between Google and Microsoft,” he said.

What newspapers really have to offer, Doctor explained, is data. If publishers can come to the table with that data clearly organized with uniform meta-tags it becomes more valuable to search engines.

Meanwhile the Associated Press is actively negotiating with search engines, Doctor pointed out. About two years ago the AP formed the “registry,” which essentially takes AP and member content and deeply organizes the data — say by geography and topic — with uniform tags.

Doctor said that if negotiations worked out with News Corp. and the AP, supplier payments with search engines could represent a whole new meaningful revenue stream for the industry.

Read more about Murdoch’s past remarks here
and here.

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