News Corp media mogul Rupert Murdoch certainly has some unconventional views about the Internet. He's already made it clear that he thinks fair use is a scam -- ignoring the fact that the majority of newspaper content is generated through fair use -- by recently accusing the BBC of copyright infringement. Now, he's accusing Google, Microsoft, and Ask.com of "stealing" stories by directing casual readers to his sites.
In a chat with David Speers last week, Murdoch announced plans to prevent Google from indexing News Corp sites like the Wall Street Journal, effectively eliminating them from search results. Murdoch says he'll hide his sites from Google when News Corp starts charging for content (the WSJ is currently behind a partial pay wall). On its face, this seems pretty absurd. By blocking Google and charging for content, Murdoch is saying he'd rather have a small pool of subscribing readers than a large audience that provides revenue through ad views.
But, fair-use evangelist Cory Doctorow speculates, "What [Murdoch is] 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." This, says Doctorow, would be a "disaster" for the buyer because having sole access to Murdoch's pages could hardly provide that much of a competitive advantage.
Stan Schroeder at Mashable concludes, "Mr. Murdoch is not ready to accept any of the changes brought forth by the Internet and the social media movement." I don't fully agree with that -- when The New York Times announced a second round of buyouts and possible layoffs, many commenters were begging to pay for content. And with more social web and news sites experimenting (often successfully) with offering content and services for a fee, it seems that all-free content may be on its way out.
Murdoch appears intellectually out-of-touch with how the internet works -- but financially, he's thinking ahead.
--Shani O. Hilton
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