Media titan and News Corp czar Rupert Murdoch seems to be on a warpath against Google's spiders, particularly with regard to Google News' indexing of News Corp items.
In an interview today with Australian media outlet Sky News, Murdoch hinted that when News Corp sites start charging users for access to content around June 2010, said content will be de-indexed from all search engines. It's an old-school approach to the burgeoning threat of new media, but who wants to argue with a 78 year-old billionaire? And exactly how much share does News Corp hold in the search engine news v. old-guard media battle?
Australian-born Murdoch said in the interview, "There are no websites... anywhere in the world making any serious money. Some may be breaking even or maybe making a couple of million."
Murdoch continues to criticize Google as plagiarists who steal News Corp content, just as he claims users should never have had access to free content in the first place. Take a look at this video of the interview. Beware: It's long and deeply fascinating:
The most fascinating thing about the interview is that Murdoch points out the sticking points of traffic valuation and monetization that only a 4-billionaire has the right to comment on. Does inclusion in Google News results guarantee clickthroughs? Do clickthroughs guarantee loyal readership? Does loyal readership in any way convert to ad dollars?
Taking it a step further, when one considers the absolutely abysmal rates of conversion of clickthrough users on advertisers' websites, does the funnel of Google News traffic generate revenue from consumers to advertises and thence to publishers?
Or is it all a rhubarb goulash, as Murdoch would have it?
Clearly, there are subtleties to the case, which carries with it every complexity ever pondered by those who attempt to provide value to users - most of whom indignantly refuse to pay for content and accept pirated content as a substitute - and those who guard the economic and cultural longevity of traditional media, many outlets of which continue to provide the most valuable and insightful commentary in a news environment that revolves around instant deadlines, fast-beats-best reportage, and shoddy fact-checking.
But as much as the newsprint-and-ink old guarders among us can appreciate Murdoch's last stand, one appreciates - as a user and as a technologist - the cooperation and innovation of companies such as the New York Times, the BBC, and other very traditional news outlets that have seen the value of distribution, aggregation, and mass information.
If, however, News Corp decides to deny Google bots access to its content, Google news will likely suffer little. Between the Associated Press, Reuters, and other print and broadcast news services, one wonders how much the absence of News Corp listings - primarily represented by the Wall Street Journal and FOX - will affect Google News.