Rupert Murdoch's banging his "Google is a thief!" drum again in an interview at a National Press Club event. Then he praised the iPad. Then things got really freaky. Murdoch, News King, would like the physical newspaper to die.
The only unifying take-away from the scattered talk was that Rupert Murdoch will support any media he can bend to fit his mission and bottom line—and vow to exterminate the others.
Speaking at the event at George Washington University, in front of a crowd of news media professionals and students, Murdoch couldn't resist underlining his theory that Google, and other search engines, have been rising the back of the "real" news media by acting as aggregators. Murdoch's stance is that Google and its ilk are breaking copyright and outright stealing the news, despite the fact that when they preview a story from a News Corp. publication they offer hyperlinks that send readers to the full article at the original source: This results in page views that drive advertising revenues directly into Murdoch's pockets.
Still, Murdoch won't be swayed, and he underlined his plans to erect paywalls around his news content, and to bar "people like Google or Microsoft or whoever from taking stories for nothing" by forbidding their Net crawler tech from accessing it. He even took a stab (with a dirty knife between the shoulder blades) at competitor New York Times' efforts at erecting a paywall, snubbing it as half-hearted and that the management doesn't "seem able to make up its mind" on the matter. His final outburst, which betrays his real agenda as a money-grabber who cares not a jot for what the consumer wants, or even the traditions of a free press, is that, although the consumer has become used to getting online news content for free, they'll be forced to change soon. Forced, folks...forced. Because when Murdoch (and others) haul up their paywalls, then the consumer will have "nowhere else to go" and "they will start paying." What about the notion, Rupe, that the consumer will, at the mere effort of a couple more clicks of the mouse, seek their news elsewhere entirely? There will always be free news, you see.
But though you may now be picturing Rupert as an aging, leathered, bitter proponent of his own old agenda, foaming with evil enthusiasm like Dalek-creator Davros from Doctor Who (look it up, non-Whovians—it's a precious TV gem), Murdoch had one more surprising thing to say. Referencing, again, his admiration for Apple's iPad, which is a "glimpse of the future," he all but called for the end of the physical paper and ink newspaper. In fact he noted, "If you have less newspapers and more of these [iPads] ... it may well be the saving of the newspaper industry." This is an amazing insight into Murdoch's thinking. He really thinks, like many other commenters, that the iPad could save the newspaper industry. And he's not at all afraid of technology, as long as it can be bent to his agenda: A paid iPad app with subscription access and all the protection of Apple's locked-down iTunes distribution system lines up sweetly with Murdoch's vision for the future of newsprint.
We like tech, so this is actually a positive sign. There're also a couple of environmental pluses there, of course, with decreased burden on paper production (and its attendant use of strong chemicals) and all the carbon footprint implications of distributing physical newspapers around the world. But we can't quite let ourselves be overly enthusiastic at Murdoch's new stance on the future of news...we just don't know where he'll point his laser pistol next, with a cry of "exterminate!"
Image credits: Reuters, BBC
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