Fast Company

News Manipulator Rupert Murdoch Gripes About Google's News Manipulation

Rupert Murdoch is so concerned about the future of traditional (i.e. his) news publishing at the hands of Google, he's launched paid Web newspapers via an online club. But if Google's so evil, why doesn't he block its Webcrawlers?

<a href=Rupert Murdoch" width="270" height="338" />Murdoch's Argument:

Tremble ye mortals! For hundreds of years you've relied on people like our fine upstanding journalists to relay yesterday's news. They polish it, our editors give it their unique spin, tweaking the odd word or two for style, and then publish it in fine words of ink on paper. In exchange for a few modest pennies, it then wends its way to your breakfast table and brightens up your morning commute. Our news is truth. You can trust it because it's the product of hard graft. (And sometimes, plain old graft.)

But all that effort and our sweet patron-reader relationship is at risk. In fact, the whole edifice of traditional news publication is being shaken at its very foundation. And the source of this quake is an evil technology, masquerading as a cool Net application that helps you find what you're looking for: Google (and its ilk). These sites, champions of so-called ubiquitous and real-time data access, are stealing our content, and rebroadcasting it for all to see without our permission. And without paying us.

It's a terrible news story all by itself. They're nothing but techno-savvy thieves and charlatans, deftly swiping away the very profits that pay for your beloved journos day jobs. If it continues, the news industry will fall. And then who will you trust to tell you yesterdays news?

The Facts:

Google's Webcrawler robots automagically roam the Internet gathering data on the billions of pages of content they find, including Murdoch-owned Web newspapers. Searching for a hot news topic returns you the relevant matching pages--with a few lines of text designed to help you work out if each is precisely the right page. And then there's a hyperlink. Which takes you to that page, where your destination Web site is free to broadcast whatever advertising it likes at you--for which privilege it charges its advertising partners. Google's own News site does something very similar, except it automatically collates newsy items so you don't necessarily have to search for them manually.

In terms of search and news aggregation, Google's stealing nothing from anybody. (Google Books is, admittedly, a totally different complicated rights ownership matter.)

The Embarrassing Truth:

Despite Murdoch's rants about paid content, it's widely known that the subscription pay walls at his own Wall Street Journal site are easily circumvented if you search for the headline...using Google.

And Google broadcasts (for all to see) methods by which you can prevent its crawler bots indexing your page--hence keeping its link off Google's indexed searches, and (in Murdoch's mind) keeping Google's thieving hands off his lovely expensively-created news content.

Murdoch's newspaper's Web page code doesn't block Google's robot.

The Amusing Conclusion:

Murdoch's a little bit of a tall tale-teller, desperately keen to hang on to an increasingly outmoded status quo that's made him a billionaire. But despite his success and wealth and powerful political friends, no one seems to have told him: The calls from Google are coming from inside the building.

[via Newsweek]

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3 Comments

  • Thomas Carlyle

    Newspapers - the Fourth Estate - have traditionally been viewed as the guardians of public interests against those of politicians and big business. That was why the public used to buy them. Nowadays they tend to be propagandists for particular political views who manipulate the news to suit their purposes. The internet has made this more apparent by providing us with access to a plethora of news sources and allowing us to compare the spin. Iraq was a case in point - I heard someone defending News Corp on that say that it was clear that there was editorial freedom since one editor of one of their papers opposed the war. That this paper was in PNG was not regarded as an issue. The internet has provided us with the ability to see through the propaganda that the Murdoch press purveys. The traditional newspapers have brought about their own demise by not providing what the public wants - they do not provide accurate reporting and, by and large, they do not provide investigative journalism - I except the British Daily Telegraph on politicians expenses. If investigative journalism is good and is provided people will be willing to pay one way or another. If we are expected to pay for Murdoch propaganda to bolster his media empire - forget it! And neither I nor Google are delusional. Welcome to the 21st century.

  • Joel Kline

    It is easy to take pot shots at the traditional media and people like Murdoch who create content. Let's not forget, however, that people like Murdoch still have a revenue model for news that works and he stills pays journalists who fact check and seek confirming sources. In the late 1990's the courts prevented aggregators from showing another news site and wrapping their own advertisements around it. This is different, but not much. Google is certainly going to put ads on content which Murdoch companies developed. How would you feel if this was your news company?

    I am no protectionist. But anyone who does not see a big problem with the demise of traditional news companies is delusional. Bloggers do not fact check, bloggers do not get two sources, and bloggers forward on dubious stories because they have no way of confirming it. If we are left to bloggers for news we will lose investigative journalism (what's left of it) and accurate reporting. Our "news" will become a webmash of rumor, innuendo, and gossip.

    Sorry to rain on your parade. But if companies like Murdoch's cannot be paid for quality content, then we will all suffer. Ironically, the wide and open distribution of the 'Net will leave us with no quality content.

  • Zara Lockwood

    Sounds daft but I think private paid content could take off. More of us are going on line, more often, newspapers that embrace new media could charge for quality content, maybe they just have to look at ways to attract people to keep up the membership fees, reward systems, JV's with mobile phone companies earn top up points for your phone while being a member of your favorite content provider - my example is with the sun newspaper - boobies are banned on facebook, most fellas probably don't want to be caught my a wife or boss looking up naughty stuff, but the sun brand is kind of acceptable (in UK) and would be considered by most women as okay for their other halves to join - even with the naked ladies.