Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The method in Murdoch's madness

I wrote off Murdoch's latest threats to remove News Corp feeds from Google News as so much blather until I read Boing Boing:
So here's what I think it going on. Murdoch has no intention of shutting down search-engine traffic to his sites, but he's still having lurid fantasies inspired by the momentary insanity that caused Google to pay him for the exclusive right to index MySpace (thus momentarily rendering MySpace a visionary business-move instead of a ten-minutes-behind-the-curve cash-dump).

So what he's hoping is that a second-tier search engine like Bing or Ask (or, better yet, some search tool you've never heard of that just got $50MM in venture capital) will give him half a year's operating budget in exchange for a competitive advantage over Google.

He may, in fact, get a taker. And it will be a disaster. A search engine whose sole competitive advantage is "We have Rupert Murdoch's pages!" will not attract any substantial traffic. The search engine will either go bust or fail to renew the deal.

The problem with the deal to give Google the exclusive right to index MySpace is that it cheats the users whose postings create the value of MySpace. If I am a musician who is obliged to give my music away for free on MySpace to presuade fans to come to my concerts, I want the widest exposure possible. As Google is by far the largest search engine, I might overlook this limitation, or I might not. I might find a place to post my music that was visible to as many search engines as possible. Murdoch simply does not understand the online economy.

Edit -
Looks like Microsoft will to oblige NewsCorp.

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