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Will News Corp. shut out Google for a Bing bribe?

There's been a fair amount of chatter among journalism types this week about the possibility of News Corp. -- whose chief executive Rupert Murdoch seems to have a visceral hatred of Google's ability to make money off Web-search advertising -- blocking Google from indexing its properties and instead letting Microsoft pay it for the privilege.

As recent reports in the Financial Times and the New York Times explain, under this deal Microsoft would pay News Corp. an unspecified sum to stop Google from indexing its sites -- an option the Web search giant and every other legitimate search engine has long supported -- and then make its stories available through its Bing search site.

Understand that I love competition and I think Bing is a pretty good search engine, but I doubt this will work for either Microsoft or News Corp.

(I know Murdoch's media properties -- including Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal -- aren't everybody's favorite sources, but let's set aside that angle to treat this as a business proposition.)

First, Bing's news search is extremely thin compared with Google's. Just getting a few high-profile publications on Bing won't help when you'd still need to turn to Google to find most other news items.

Second, not even Microsoft can afford to bribe enough newspapers and magazines to put Google News out of business.

Third, for a newspaper, this strategy would first involve giving up an enormous chunk of its existing traffic. Last month, Google fielded just over 65 percent of Web searches in the United States and Microsoft handled just under 10 percent, according to ComScore's data.

Fourth, this would break a basic aspect of how the Web works. Not only are there potential regulatory issues, as this BusinessWeek article outlines, but readers accustomed to a Web without privileged perspectives might not be interested in figuring out which site they have to use to find which stories -- not when they can stick with the one they already use.

(BW's story also suggests that News Corp. hopes to pressure Google into giving it a better renewal deal on its expiring contract to place ads on News' fading MySpace social network.)

Fifth, in my experience, the richer and more powerful the media mogul, the less of a clue they seem to have about the Internet. I have a hard time seeing Murdoch's venting as any more grounded in reality than the logic-deprived bleating of the Associated Press's leadership.

Search Engine Land editor Danny Sullivan doesn't think the math adds up for either News or Microsoft. Nor does news-business blogger Alan D. Mutter.

There are arguments to be made for News Corp. trying this experiment, but to me the most convincing one comes from media critic Jay Rosen. A story in Canada's Financial Post quotes him as giving News backhanded credit for taking a little initiative instead of just complaining:

I'm tired of newspaper people whining about Google and if they really feel as aggrieved as they say, then we need somebody to take some action and let's see what happens. I think it would be a great experiment to watch and learn from.

Doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement of the concept, does it?

I have no specific idea how The Post's management might feel about this proposition, though I suspect/hope we're not interested in it. But I'm more interested in what you, the reader, think. Would you switch your search habits to follow your usual news sources? Or do you have better things to do than figure out these high-level corporate squabbles?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  November 24, 2009; 2:16 PM ET
Categories:  Policy and politics , The business we have chosen  
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Wouldn't that be a restraint of trade? Collusion? Surely MS has learned from its bouts with antitrust regulators.

Posted by: wiredog | November 24, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

When I use Google News, it's because I want to know about the topic and don't have a preferred source to turn to for it. If Murdoch takes his toys and goes home, how would I even know?

Because I have "brand loyalty" to the Post, I visit the site directly (at least when I'm out of town and unable to read the dead trees version, which I still prefer).

Posted by: strollingbones | November 24, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

the Sooner the Better. I'm tried of seeing "Fox News" as the top headline on Google's News page.

Posted by: gzillasam1 | November 24, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

It seems that this would help to eliminate News Corp. clutter from Google searches and would be a good thing. Hopefully it wouldn't result in search engine fragmentation down the road for other news sources.

Posted by: Tyelctu | November 24, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps searching several search engines at once at could be a solution.

Posted by: jfehribach | November 24, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Really Rob, I can’t set this aside:

(I know Murdoch's media properties -- including Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal -- aren't everybody's favorite sources, but let's set aside that angle to treat this as a business proposition.)

I don’t subscribe to Fox or the Post’s “philosophy” so even though I see those sources listed, I avoid them like H1N1. And the Wall Street Journal has generally been a subscription-based Web entity for as long as I can remember, so I also avoid links from that paper. I think I will sit this one out and pay more attention when an organization I care about takes on Google. And frankly speaking, I still haven’t tried Bing yet, and neither have a lot of my friends. Why switch to a just OK engine when one Web site gives me everything I need? Typical Murdoch, he is shooting off his mouth while shooting himself in the foot!

Posted by: ummhuh1 | November 25, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Considering how Murdoch is also planning to erect a pay-wall around his media properties like WSJ, doing both of these moves at the same time would severely limit the audience, and therefore the worth, of the sites. While Bing may be better than MSFT's previous search engines and is off to a better start, I also question how often the company will re-invent their search engine with a new brand/name and how that would impact News Corp.'s proposed deal. With too many holes in their logic, I can't see this kind of deal succeeding.

Posted by: Blue02dude | November 25, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

This is a bad business move. The fewer people that find your site, through whichever SE, the fewer people will send links to their friends (via email, digg, twitter, whatever). There's just that much less of a chance that you'll attract eyeballs, which is the name of this game, no?

Posted by: killick | November 25, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Google News Corp. sounds interesting. Since Google is already located in every major news center and has a powerful lobbying team, just how many reporters will Google have to hire to make this happen. If News Corp blocks Google, what will they have to pay to get unblocked and does Google ever have to index their sites. It takes nerve to prick a giant to squeeze a drop of blood.

Posted by: rk2009 | November 26, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, love the idea of removing Fox News and Murdoch enterprises from Google searches. That will reduce the conservative blather and clutter from the net!

Posted by: Astrogal | November 26, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

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