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Rory Cellan-Jones

Microsoft and Murdoch: Teaming up to bash Google?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 23 Nov 09, 11:24 GMT

There's a fascinating story in this morning's edition of the Financial Times, which could signal a big shift in the balance of power between parts of the web and other parts of the media. The piece says that Microsoft has been in talks with the media giant News Corporation over a plan which could see the firm behind papers from the Wall Street Journal to the Sun being paid to stop Google searching its news websites.

Rupert MurdochThe implication is that Microsoft's search engine Bing would be the place to go for news - and that Google would have to start paying if it wanted to retain that kind of content.

The FT's story comes a week or so after the Techcrunch UK blog reported that Microsoft had held talks with European publishers about what sounds like a similar plan to get them onside as part of a battle to make Bing a more attractive and lucrative place than Google for their content.

So is there any truth in either report? Well, a couple of days after the Techcrunch post, I was due to interview a senior executive from Bing, and Microsoft called to ask whether I would be asking about that story. When I said yes I would, they said he could not talk about it - and we therefore pulled out of the interview. Make of that what you will.

All of this comes against the background of Rupert Murdoch's campaign to start getting people to pay for the online content of his newspapers, a move fleshed out last week in a speech by the editor of the Times, James Harding.

But Mr Murdoch has also made it clear that Google - and indeed the BBC - are two major obstacles to this campaign, because they are both major ways to get free news. Meanwhile, Microsoft is anxious to do two things - to give Bing a big push, and to get in on Google's profit margins.

So it's understandable that News Corp and Microsoft might want to unite against the idea that news content on the internet should be free. But there are also plenty of reasons why Microsoft in particular would want to keep these negotiations as quiet as possible.

After all, if internet users get it into their heads that Bing's results are not as unbiased as Google's appear to be, because of an alliance with news providers, then they may well be less keen to switch to Microsoft's search engine.

Ah, but what if Bing were the only place to get quality news because such content had been shut out of Google? Well, that would be an interesting test of just how important news is to the mass of internet users. For we professional journalists, that could be a worrying moment - one where we find out the true market value of our content.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Seems all "news" these days is just dramatised to the max just to sell papers (or now subscriptions online). What happened to "no news is good news"?

  • Comment number 2.

    Do people user search engines for news much anyway? I tend to go to a set of sites that I trust to see what the latest is. Only if I hear about something that I can't find in those places (as a result of super-injunctions more often than not!) do I go to search.

    There's a lot of talk about shutting out Google as though it's difficult to do. Stop the posturing to try to get Google to accede to your demands, and get on with it!

  • Comment number 3.

    So under this plan, Google would be the perfect filter against all of Murdoch's rotten content? Sounds brilliant!

  • Comment number 4.

    So once again we are in the realms of "news is the news we want you to see". Is the Murdoch / Microsoft tie up to benefit either of them in the long term? Surely not as anyone looking for real news (rather than chat and gossip) will be savvy enough to know about these restricting deals.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think Baileys got a point, I never use search engines to look for news, unless I'm on The Times say and use their own google powered search engine to look for something.

    I get why Murdoch wants even more power over peoples news, but his monopoly is slowly fading and this latest power grabbing attempt will fail.

  • Comment number 6.

    If Murdoch restricts his titles news to only appearing in Bing’s results then a few people might use Bing to get at them – providing there’s no pay-per-view. (I doubt Google will lose sleep over a few thousand people using Bing just to see what extra news stories turn up in a search.)
    But if I can still get access to, say, Timesonline without paying then why not just Google search that and get in to the site that way?

    News stories are reported via all media outlets, not just one paper or stable of papers (even if one first broke the story, as with The Telegraph and MP’s expenses).
    I do use Google News on a daily basis and I like that it lists all the media outlets covering a story under its headline. (Also that I can search specific news topics.)

    Given a biggish story can be covered by 1,000 such outlets worldwide I don’t see how I can be stopped from accessing a report on it; if I have to go to Al Jazeera or China Daily’s pages [English versions] then so be it. Removing Murdoch’s titles from Google doesn’t stop me getting that news story. (Many outlets rely on agency reports so often it’s exactly the same article repeated in many titles sites.)

    The only thing Murdoch could specifically block is access to the columnists/bloggers that are contracted to write features, reviews etc for his websites. I can live without them, though I have browsed various sections on Timesonline in the past; but if I want a film review or tech news etc the web’s not exactly short of alternatives.

    To put the question in a different way - is there any tactic Murdoch could try that would make me pay up? No.

    Perhaps he’s realised that the public will be reluctant to pay which is why he’s looking at getting search engines to pay instead; but I don’t see any advantage to Microsoft in this; how would Microsoft make money on this - unless Murdoch ends up paying them?

    I’m not sure what Murdoch is planning here: Search engines having to pay to display his titles? Pay-per-view-per-article? Subscription fees for access to his sites? He may find none of these are viable, so back to square one.

  • Comment number 7.

    I find it amusing that we seem to call Murdoch's news as 'quality news' taken from Google. As far as I know, Murdoch's press is one of the most bias there is, crushing anything threatening it!

    Pity really, I was beginning to like Bing. Not that it really matters. Like a lot of people, I just go directly to the sites I want to for news. Like the BBC. Now that's what I call quality news.

  • Comment number 8.

    7 adrian-polglase
    "Like a lot of people, I just go directly to the sites I want to for news. Like the BBC. Now that's what I call quality news."

    Which is of course why various Murdochs keep attacking the BBC. Conservative future government must be watched very carefully with regard to this.

  • Comment number 9.

    This is what Internet users call FAIL.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ultras I think there maybe a EPIC in there as well.

  • Comment number 11.

    News Corp can block Google from indexing the sites easily using a robots.txt file. (a file which dictates rules for search engine spiders such as files allowed to access and rate of loading pages. Google's spider follows these rules) The problem is that they do want the site to be indexed by Google, they just want money for it.

    Murdoch wants to charge money for news but knows that unless most news organisations are doing it then people will just go for the free stuff. This is why they don't simply remove their sites from Google.

    I think there's two main reasons why people wont switch to pay-news online:

    1) People are too used to news being free. Often people even navigate away from websites that force you to register to read free articles
    2) News is so sensationalised and blown up nowadays that it's not worth paying for. To get a decent picture of what has happened you'd have to subscribe to multiple sources.

    I doubt that if News Corp sites were missing from Google that many people would really be bothered. (bar the people who specifically want to visit those sites) Underneath most news items there's a link that says "all 150 articles", so there's plenty more choice. Something significant will probably have to happen for Murdoch and his News Corporation to win this one outright.

  • Comment number 12.

    In a way it's a shame that Bing is involved (well...not for Murdoch) as it is drawing attention away from the real issue and instead people are just going to focus on "ZOMG M$ SUXX0RZZ!!! USE TEH FIREFOX!!!11"

    The issue that people are missing is that it's not current use that is the issue (we just go to our favourite source for that) but archived news. I regularly use search engines to find old articles on news items and events, and if news sites are not to be indexed by google then it will indeed be an issue for people looking for historical information.

  • Comment number 13.

    11 Pixelvision "Something significant will probably have to happen for Murdoch and his News Corporation to win this one outright."

    ...such as my comment at 8

  • Comment number 14.

    You folk who work for the BBC ought to realise that the BBC is also under attack.

    1) The anti-BBC papers print endless stories about BBC salaries etc.The same Tory papers don't tell us about salaries at large media groups also paid for by PAY-TV subscriptions etc.

    2) On various bulletin boards there are never ending posting about the TV licence fee and how high/bad it is. These folk never point out that the entry subscription for pay-satellite TV is much higher.

    3) The Tory party has decided to attack the BBC in order to placate certain foreign newspaper owners. Imagine if a British Newspaper group tried to influence the next election in Australia. I am sure the language would be interesting. It is sad that Nu-Labour hasn't the guts to tell a certain Australian to stop interfering in our elections.

    Of course the whole thing is the usual press conspiracy. Lots of crime stories to panic the public into having lots of police. Lots of police to protect newspaper print-rooms and profits in case the workers ever dare go on strike.

    I don't always agree with some of the Trade Unions but Tony Woodley got a well deserved round of applause at the Labour Party conference when he tore up a copy of a certain newspaper.

    If the BBC is closed down and some right wing trash replaces it would the last sensible person left please turn off the light before boarding the ferry to Calais!

  • Comment number 15.

    For a detailed analysis of how Murdoch just does not "get it" see http://www.buzzmachine.com/2009/11/15/nose-face-cut-spite-blocking-google/

  • Comment number 16.

    The BBC funded by the people for the people.
    News international funded by some of the people for Rupert Murdoch.
    As long as there's a BBC there'll be free quality news - so why pay the Murdoch Press for it?
    If they restrict access to it, then it will cease to be relevant. If you can't search it, you can't find it. If you can't find it, you can't quote it. If it's not quoted it will be forgotten.

    Is that such a bad thing?

  • Comment number 17.

    If the Sun believe that the X-Factor is the lead headline from all world news from today, then I'm more than happy to continue using Google, if it means I avoid the bilge and dirge Rupert Murdoch's operations generate.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    Okay so why is this a story now? Poor old Newsnow have been fighting for months against the Murdoch empire and now Rory brings it up when Microsoft get involved.

    Don't kid yourself I am pretty sure Google had a sniff around too and opted out of the idea for the lack of cold hard cash being made fore them.

    I really can't understand why anyone would use Google or Bing to sesrch news items when newsnow does a better job of it anyway.

    This must be a dream for the tech pages of the BBC though. Just think you can now link two of your perceived evil corporations together now, love it.

    In no time we will have the M$ crowd, from the 90s (It was only funny for a second back then. Please stop I have asked before to no avail), back in bleating about Apple being cuddly etc...

    Let's not kid ourselves people money is all these corporations care about and I include cuddly Apple in there too. At the end of the day its a way for them both to make cash and I am positive they wont be the last lot to do something of this nature.

    Oh and I don't think the licence fee is such a bad thing, although some of the articles here make me wonder.

  • Comment number 20.

    I wouldn't read Murdoch's news now, and I certainly wouldn't if I had to pay for it. He's pricing himself out of the market by trying to force people to pay for their news. Besides, people will always find a way to get their news for free. And if I had to pay for news then I'd just go back to buying a newspaper.

  • Comment number 21.

    I really doubt the news sites would suffer from loss of search engine traffic, it would probaly make the news more exclusive removing google as the middleman(who would profit from google paid clicks)

    You don't search for actual news on Google anyway because you wouldn't know the news unless you came from the future.

    You might goto google.co.uk and type "the sun news" or "the guardian" and click straight through but most just hit type thesun theguardian guardian.co.uk sun.co.uk in the address bar in your browser.

  • Comment number 22.

    I stopped reading Murdoch's publications a long time ago and, seeing that it appears that Microsoft is getting into bed with him, I'm really glad that I've changed to a Mac. I will continue to get my news from the BBC and through Google. I certainly won't pay for access in addition to what I already pay

  • Comment number 23.

    22. Does owning a mac make you a better person and less reliant on a faceless corporation? I'm pretty sure if you check Murdoch run companies a number will deal with Apple in some way.

    Okay so Apple put Steve Jobs in front of the camera but lets not forget a corporation has the same rights as a human, which is wrong imo.

    Anyway I bet Google and Apple (Along with many others) looked at the idea too and wondered what they could make out of it.

    I also wonder how many people banging on about Murdoch being bad etc have Sky TV in their homes that they will curl up in front of this evening?

    Don't get me wrong I am not defending any of them. I just feel that corporations must sit and laugh as we bicker about who is better as it does nothing but play into their greedy mits.

  • Comment number 24.

    So apparently Apple and Fox tied up a deal a while back to allow iTunes users to rent movies and tv shows... Crikey can Apple actually be as bad as MS? Surely not? It's all about the money and Murdoch is an expert at it.

  • Comment number 25.

    Just found something ironic about Murdoch's complaints: (Techdirt article)

  • Comment number 26.


    'Cuddly Apple'?

    I know we are entering the season of goodwill D4lien but are you sure your OK?

    Mind you, on a topic that has little or no bearing on Cupertino you still manage a bash...

    Subtle.

    News Corp and all it's tentacles has managed to entrench itself mercilessly within the sticky and manipulative media. The sensationalist space, the lowest common denominator. Ca$h 1st, conscience later - (D4lien your stomping ground surely).

    If ever anybody needed proof that the corps are after the peoples greatest treasure - this is it.........

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    If only a search engine, instead of excluding sites, only included trusted sites.

    Imagine a search engine that would get you the truth, a verified correct answer - where hitting the top link would provide you with something useful, accurate and true, instead of a horrendous racist image (for example).

    Thats the one I'd use.

    Google pride themselves on covering vast swathes of data, even if it is useless/wrong/offensive.

    Why do I need 10kazillion results, when only one of them might be any use, and any number could be out to trip me up?

    (btw - if this exists, do let me know - Wolfram Alpha would love to be there, but is way off. wikipedia is too easily "hacked")

  • Comment number 29.

    "For we professional journalists, that could be a worrying moment - one where we find out the true market value of our content." For WE???

  • Comment number 30.

    The bigger picture here is not the partnership between Microsoft and Murdoch. It is now quite clear that Murdoch is looking to force all consumer based web news sights into “Pay As You Use” services to prop up his failing "media empire". In the UK and perhaps in Australia as well there are two Publicly owned News Services (the BBC in the UK and the ABC in Australia) that Murdoch will have to compete against if his aim is to be realised.

    Here in the UK we have already seen the opening salvoes of this battle with his son’s rants against the BBC and a tie up between the Conservative Party and the Sun News Paper’s support for the Conservatives in the up and coming election. The pay off for the Sun’s support being that the Conservative Party will shatter the Trusts that support the BBC therefore depriving the BBC of it’s finical Support. This may possibly even allow Murdoch to buy up parts of the BBC if the Conservative Party achieve their goal of privatising the BBC.

    There is nothing here that is good for the public or the consumer of news because Murdoch’s news and media coverage is second rate regurgitated pap at best. The Conservatives hope to profit in this deal by eviscerating the BBC and thus avoid having to put up with good, well balanced media scrutiny, something both the Conservative and the Labour partys often dislike. The conservatives however, hate good journalism even more because such scrutiny usually uncovers the whacky far right of their party and the less than popular policies that favor the wealthy and also powerful corporations at the expense of all others in the country.

    Thus, the pairing up of Murdoch and Microsoft signal a shift not so much in Microsoft’s battle to have Bing become the dominant search engine of the web as this seems unlikely even in the medium term given Googles dominance and their more than likely superior search engine. What this signals is Murdoch’s bid to dominate the consumer news and media segments on the Web in order to win back falling profits and to sustain Murdoch’s own political influence in countries such as the UK and Australia where he dominates the news markets with his info-tainment style of news.

    Microsoft’s only gain in this seems to be a long shot at having Bing in the Lime Light while associated with Murdoch and the slim chance at picking up some of Googles market share. Microsoft is in effect doing nothing more than giving Mr Murdoch a piggyback. It remains to be seen if this desperate arrangement between Murdoch and Microsoft will yield the results either of them are eloping for. I suspect not and hope not!

  • Comment number 31.

    Google is great at everything.

  • Comment number 32.

    Imagine a search engine that would get you the truth, a verified correct answer - where hitting the top link would provide you with something useful, accurate and true, instead of a horrendous racist image (for example give you real sites having them for your local stores ;)).
    well hopefully...

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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