Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

Summary: Rupert Murdoch has said that he'll probably take his content out of Google, and hinted very strongly he and other newspaper groups are in discussion over paywalls.

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TOPICS: Emerging Tech
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Rupert Murdoch has said that he'll probably take his content out of Google, and hinted very strongly he and other newspaper groups are in discussion over paywalls.

Leaving aside the question of anti-trust - and whether, given Murdoch's extremely close and effective ties to governments, any regulator would be able to function at all or act fast enough to make any difference - this would seem to presage the death of the Internet and its replacement with what old media and old telecoms wanted all along, a segregated, partitioned network where access always comes at a price.

We had that before. It didn't work. Or, rather, it worked fine for established interests with the money to build their own systems or who, by accident of history, controlled the routes of access, where 'fine' meant maintaining that control and preventing open standards, open access and open innovation.

Let's say that Murdoch carries through with his threat and pulls all his content from Google, and sets up paywalls for all his properties. What will happen under the following scenarios?

1. Nobody follows him 2. Some content providers follow him 3. All content providers follow him

and a wildcard:

4. He allows Bing (for example) to crawl his sites, but excludes Google. Or Apple springs its tablet-based news-stand app store on the world with all major publishers involved: you want news, you go through Apple, Rupert's new best friend.

Here's how I see those panning out:

1. Huge competitive advantage to everyone else in attracting readers. His pitch, that readers who pay are worth far more to advertisers than readers who don't, relies on having readers who pay. The standard conversion rate for freemium services (ie, you get people in with the free stuff and sell them up) is 1 percent. And that's 1 percent of people who haven't got there via Google? Does that make sense?

2. Chaos reigns. Suddenly, the news outlets with no paywalls and plenty Google will find it very advantageous to run with stories that they read behind the paywall, even a day after - unless the paywalled sites decide they do want Google and just publish a day late online. The opportunity here for a new face (again, think Apple) to step in with a free service tuned to the new landscape is high, and dangerous to the incumbents.

3. Google loses all its news. Everyone has to decide what to pay for - you can't afford the Times and the Telegraph, let alone Salon and the NYT and Boing Boing - and you can bet the paywalls are set to get a year's sub out of you. The news and information landscape takes a 25 year trip back in time... where, you may remember, a new technology called the Internet was waiting in the wings. The Internet has not actually gone away.

There would be no better market for a new operation to start from a clean slate - a billion plus people ready and able to consume content that they've come to expect, and peeved that they've lost it.

4. Stand by for the biggest lawsuit you've ever seen. Unless Murdoch, Apple and co get into bed with Comcast, Verizon and other major internet providers around the world to break net neutrality, in which case stand by for the biggest lawsuit you'll ever see.

2010 will be very interesting. Anything Murdoch does is going to be a huge gamble, beyond anything he's done before - and he'll do anything to appear confident that it'll work.

We'll see.

Topic: Emerging Tech

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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12 comments
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  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    Murdoch Junior's empire is much more frgile than when Dad ran it. He no longer dominates content nor channel. He's now risk averse. Since readers expect content for free he'll go for a hybrid. Cut down CNN soundbite story and click thru the paywall to read full content. LQ
    Lance Q
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    It could backfire on him by highlighting the media that he doesn't own such as The Independent/Daily Mail/Guardian/Mirror etc.

    Will his competitors follow suit? Or; will they remain free and step up their freebie offer campaigns? Then of course we have the BBC, and Australia has ABC online. Does the USA have a free public service channel?

    Hopefully it will serve to marginalise news reporting dinosaurs and leave others to get on with unique story telling of some sort.



    roger andre
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    Where living in an age where reporters jobs are no longer secure, so what makes you think ruperts business are? fine if he wants to go head to head with how many onliner's so be it, but don't expect to find much of em left.
    CA-aba1d
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    Hey oddball spammer! Why don't you go advertise where the sun doesn't shine? 25
    roger andre
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    ? who you speaking to ?
    CA-aba1d
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    I think it would have to be all or nothing, I think both the telcos and the media moguls know this, and I think that it's well within their abilities to form a de-facto cartel to facilitate themselves. We need look no further than the way telcos try to justify their data roaming charges to see where that would lead.
    BitSmith-8d3ee
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    @CA There is a rogue spammer that makes a mess of this website, so I thought I'd answer back. Now it's post has been deleted.
    roger andre
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    Thank god for smart phones then, once equipped anyone can capture footage and then share it in order to get the content uploaded across borders if necessary, recent events in Iran proved that, and news crews are far harder to hide and to easy to sway.

    In all honesty if they do wish to try and corner the market, I can see the free markets exploding with expansion, albeit the presentation will not be as good, but they will be far less back scratching going on and far more truths being told as of a result of this.

    I know which of the two choices id rather have, so bring it on.
    CA-aba1d
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    CA - I speak as one with an obvious interest and bias, but there's a pervasive assumption that someone who isn't paid to provide news and information is automatically accurate, unbiased and without an agenda. in my experience that's not always true ;-)

    @roger National Public Radio and PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) - the NPR site is well worth a look (and a listen, thanks to that there Interweb)
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    Yup your right but there's a greater chance of biased reports being undermined unlike having a handful of controlled media tycoons.
    CA-aba1d
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    Thank you Simon, I'll check it out.
    roger andre
  • Murdoch versus the Net? Game on.

    I am confused how this will pan out. At first, I thought Rupert Murdoch was not being particularly sensible about taking this drastic approach. On the other hand, taking away a lot of the crap which has been archived on Google will make searching for information of a much higher intellectual calbre. No, unfortunately, I have a very low opinion of the English press, and this is not believe-it-or-not restricted to the Sun. I enjoy reading the New York Times, and would happily pay a subscription to do so. Sometimes I feel a ticket to New York would be nice, if it were not for the BA strikes.....
    Shibley R