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?
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?
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.