Thursday, December 03, 2009

Rupert Murdoch Takes a Stand

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation, owner of the Wall Street Journal and The Times, among other newspapers, is a vocal critic of Google. He accuses Google of stealing content from newspapers and making it available through its search engine without any payment to the publisher. The Telegraph is reporting that in response to complaints from Murdoch and other publishers, Google has launched a new initiative--the First Click Free program--"that lets ... [Google] index website content but prevents Web surfers from having unrestricted access once they reach the online locales." Google now offers publishers the ability to "'limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing.'" What this means is that "Google users may start seeing registration pages pop up when they click for a sixth time on any given day at websites of publishers using First Click Free ... ."

I understand that newspaper publishers have got to find a way to finance their expensive news operations. Our local newspaper for Westchester County has recently laid off forty staff members, and the story is the same at newspapers around the country. However, I think that charging for content is going to be a struggle. Users have become used to accessing information for free, and frankly don't care how it gets paid for. Murdoch has stated that newspapers "'need to do a better job of persuading consumers that high quality news and information does not come free.'" He is currently negotiating with Microsoft about making its Bing search engine the exclusive online source for content from Murdoch's newspapers. Will this content be enough to give Bing a competitive advantage over Google?

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