News Corp is spoiling Google’s fun (not to mention ours)

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So it’s really come down to this? News Corp is thinking about inking a deal with Microsoft/Bing whereby not only will Bing get access to News Corp data (WSJ, Fox, etc.) but they’ll also prevent Google from indexing their sites. This sounds like a lose/lose/lose/lose proposition.

News Corp loses – fewer page views, less revenue for their online content, and to the 90% of Internet users who use Google for search their properties will effectively stop existing.

Google loses (sort of) to the extent people miss the data (not sure what will happen when you force a search on Google to a News Corp domain – will they simply return no results?).

The rest of us lose because universal search will cease to be universal (and if MSFT is willing to pay for an exclusive with News Corp others will follow).

And Microsoft likely loses as well by paying for content that they likely can’t monetize and pissing a bunch of people off in the process.

I’ve been playing around with Bing a bunch lately and actually really like it. But proprietary search arrangements isn’t the way to gain market share – better search is!

  • Joe

    I agree that this isn't something I would like to see happen. I guess News Corp may lose page views, but would at least be getting paid for their content to some extent. Honestly, I'd probably still use Google and let the news percolate to me through other channels. And if Google and Bing start to significantly diverge, I'd expect a meta search site to pop up and just aggregate the results from the two when you run a search.

    I agree that the way to increase your views is not by inking exclusive deals. But I wonder if I am being a bit naive about it in thinking that these search results should be free?

  • Reid

    To your point, this would not be good if it starts a trend.

    That said, I'll just bookmark the Wall Street Journal and then be happy that I won't inadvertently access any Fox News noise using Google. As for Bing, it's time for MS to stop patting itself on the back for no longer having a pathetic search feature. Bing needs a lot of improvement. It has a few interesting features but for pure search it's still light-years behind Google.

    Reid

    • Joe

      Maybe this is a start towards politicized search engines? I think that generally people like finding information that affirms their beliefs. So maybe search engines start to fit their content to their audiences.

      That would be very disturbing.

  • hdemott

    You don't go far enough with the post.

    Better search is not the answer – better content at the ultimate landing site is.

    Google can make all sorts of money monetizing search when there is an actual product to be sold alongside the query. Search for mesothelioma (sorry about the spelling there, no clue how to spell it) and there are a lot of lawyers who are willing to pay top $ for the click through.

    However, search for a story on Time Warner cable and how it is pissed that it has to pay higher fees to bring you the Food Network (it was in the WSJ this morning) and there's nothing to monetize for Google or Bing or anyone other than Newscorp, if they provide such compelling information that you ultimately subscribe when you get to the landing site.

    Rupert and others are barking up the wrong tree with this one. I agree that others have built a business on his content – but probably not his news content – there's just no business there.

    There is breaking news – which I believe will more and more be handles by things like Twitter or some video form of twitter (real time mashup of twitter and Youtube anyone out there funding these sort of things) and then there will be longer form investigative journalism and op ed pieces. Not sure what I would pay for the journalism – and as for the op-ed's the blogosphere has provided anyone who is looking for an opinion on any subject with a plethora of views – not just those of the managing editor and his or her guests.

    So yeah, Rupert should find a way to get paid for valuable content – I'm just not sure starting with Bing and Google is the way to go – but he's a smart guy and if he gets paid anything by Bing, then it is incremental money he would never see from Google – less the traffic he might have seen from Google and the moentization of that traffic.

    I think what he is really saying is that he cannot monetize the eyeballs in news particularly efficiently – so he might as well take some sort of preference payments for linking with Bing. Something is better than nothing – or damn close to nothing.

    • sethlevine

      i think merdoch is playing with fire and don’t believe that mixing natural search with paid search is the right way to go. good content (and access to it) drives the search ecosystem. when you click on a paid search link you’re supporting that ecosystem by buying into it. the bing should be focused on better search (as should google). they should consider ways to incorporate breaking news, for instance, into search results and give less weight overall to static content. and i agree that the content sites themselves should 1) provide compelling content and 2) monetize that content. if you owned a site that had a natural search first page result on mesothelioma (the current leader in CPC pricing for a keyword) you’d be making a killing…

      that was rambling. ultimately i think this is a search engine issue. when a search engine tries to tie up content and keep it out of a rival’s engine that’s bad for the entire ecosystem. when it improves is search results to better highlight what a user is looking for that’s good for the ecosystem (and there’s nothing like a little competition to drive innovation).

  • I agree, everyone looses here… and content like this will be soooo much harder to come by: http://wonkette.com/412361/all-193-of-republicans… 🙂

    • sethlevine

      dan – that is too funny! and would be a shame to miss for sure…

  • Bill

    Interesting post. I've been thinking a lot about the loss of universal search results in deals like this which I think is a bad thing, and for sure search-silos would stink. But the more I think about it, I think this is just a natural process of the market finding equilibrium.

    No doubt the media companies are trying to squeeze out of the “old way” of doing things. The elephant in the room is that the entire media/distribution model is dead and requires a wholesale revamp, from TV/movies to music to print media. Bing search silos, iTunes, Hulu, Kindle are just band-aids. As much as I hate to admit it, maybe Murdoch's willingness to turn his protest into online competition (rather than stick his head in the sand) is a small painful step in the right direction. It sucks now because it's early days, but maybe these are the baby-steps towards a more rational market.

    I'm cautiously optimistic that this first foray of the media companies demanding some more equitable remuneration for their content will settle back into universal search with a more rational spread of the revenues.

    • sethlevine

      it’s a good point bill. the entire model is changing, although i’m hoping pay for search access doesn’t become the new media model…