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How Will Content Evolve With Online Business Models?

in Broadband's Impact/Copyright by

WASHINGTON, November 24, 2009 - News reports this week, referencing unnamed sources, stated that one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world is considering more ways to profit from the distribution of its articles online by opting out of Google News and moving into Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

News Corporation Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch has reportedly been in talks with Microsoft about a deal in which News Corp would remove its media content from Google’s search engine and include the content on Microsoft’s Bing search engine for a fee.

After the speculated discussions hit the press, Bloomberg reported that MediaNews Group Inc., the Denver Post’s publisher, may start blocking Google News from indexing its stories next year. Dallas Morning News owner A.H. Belo Corp. may also introduce online subscription fees and block Google, the publication wrote.

While people still consume tremendous amounts of news online, media publishers have struggled to come up with new business models that would enable them to profit on the information superhighway.

News search engines, such as Google News, aggregate media content for a user to quickly access. Google contends that its news search product benefits media organizations and consumers, but Murdoch recently condemned news aggregators and said journalism content should not be so freely available online.

“The Philistine phase of the digital age is almost over. The aggregators and the plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. But if we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid-for content, it will be the content creators, the people in this hall, who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs will triumph,” Murdoch said at the World Media Summit in Beijing last month.

“There are many readers who believe that they are paying for content when they sign up with an internet service provider, presuming that they have bought a ticket to a content buffet. That misconception thrived on the silence of inarticulate institutions which were unable to challenge the fallacies and humbug of the e-establishment,” he said.

On issues related to Google and news publishers, Google told Broadband Census News Tuesday that "Google News and Web search are a tremendous source of promotion for news organizations, sending them about 100,000 clicks every minute. Each of those visits offers a business opportunity for the publishers to show ads, win loyal readers and sell subscriptions. News publishers can charge for their content while at the same time ensuring that it's discovered through Google - these two are not mutually exclusive.”

“Publishers put their content on the web because they want it to be found, so very few choose to exclude their material from Google News and web search. But we respect copyright owners' wishes. If publishers don't want their websites to appear in search results, there are easy ways to remove it,” a Google spokesman continued.

Murdoch said last month that “The presses are now silent at some of the world’s most famous newspapers - they were supposed to report on their societies, but somehow failed to notice that those societies were changing fundamentally. But that very same threat is a remarkable opportunity for others – The Wall Street Journal now has a monthly digital audience of 25 million, plus another two or so million in the Chinese language.”

“Too often the conventional media response to the internet has been inchoate. A medium once thought too powerful has often seemed impotent in the past few years. Of course there should be a price paid for quality content, and yet large media organizations have been submissive in the face of the flat-earthers who insisted that all content should be free all the time. The sun does not orbit the earth, and yet this was precisely the premise that the press passively accepted, even though there have been obvious signs that readers recognize the reality that they should pay a price,” Murdoch said.

Jeff Jarvis, an associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York’s new Graduate School of Journalism and author of a book on Google, has said that even if News Corp did opt out of Google News search the move would be unnoticed by Google’s audience as there will always be free competitors offering news. Jarvis also noted if News Corp. went from Google News to Bing it would lose Web traffic.

Microsoft was unable to provide a comment by deadline.

Winter covered technology policy issues for five-and-a-half years as a reporter for the National Journal Group. She has worked for USA Today, the Washington Times, the Magazine Group, the State Department’s International Visitor’s Program, and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She also taught English at a university in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

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