You gotta love Rupert Murdoch. While many media executives are hunkered down in their bunkers, whimpering about lost revenue streams and afraid to say anything remotely offensive to people like Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the News Corp. CEO is still firing off missives about how Google is stealing money from him.
Let’s follow the story from the beginning. Murdoch has been an aggressive champion of the idea that content should be paid for and not given away from free. That’s why he’s locking most of the Wall Street Journal, which the News Corp. owns, behind a paywall. He’s said that he’ll take most of News Corp.’s content sites behind paywalls in due time.
Last fall, Murdoch said he was disgusted with the way that Google monetizes against content that it doesn’t own, and he threatened to yank his content from the Google search engine.
Now, according to the Guardian, he’s doubling down on his Google threats:
Murdoch renewed his attacks on search engines, such as Google, whom he accused of stealing journalism from traditional media outlets. He told a National Press Club event at George Washington University that the newspaper industry had to stand up for itself and charge for content while using copyright law to defend its journalism from being used without permission.
“We are going to stop people like Google or Microsoft or whoever from taking stories for nothing … there is a law of copyright and they recognise it,” Murdoch told a packed audience of students, journalists and other media professionals.
The Silicon Valley elite like to chuckle whenever somebody threatens to “remove” themselves from Google. It’s like a big joke. But there’s something to what Murdoch says. The only problem is, his threats will be empty unless more people join the rebellion. It’s all about critical mass.
You see, Google has a great application: search. It can monetize that search with its elegant Adwords business model. But Google also requires lots of traffic. It buys that traffic, or trades with partners, in addition to generating organic traffic from people coming to its search engine.
What, if any, effect could yanking News Corp. traffic do? Well, let’s say, theoretically, that Murdoch can start a movement and convince other content companies to yank their content from the search engine, and drive people directly to their sties. Eventually, Google (and Microsoft) would take a traffic hit. They would have to start doing deals to acquire or trade content to keep the eyeball levels up.
What Murdoch is onto that many people still don’t realize is that Google is a media company. Media companies require media. Microsoft has learned in its own search and Internet business, and that’s the reason it has acquired and invested in media companies and was thinking of buying Yahoo. I think it’s only a matter of time before the tension between Google and other media companies escalates as more people realize Google is eating their lunch.