News executives love to rail against Google as a parasite that steals their content. Yet none dares to insert a simple piece of code that would make their sites invisible to Google’s search engine.
Until now. Rupert Murdoch, the biggest, baddest media mogul of them all, says he’s moving ahead with plans to start charging for content across the News Corp. mediascape. And he adds that when the moment arrives, he will indeed block Google from indexing his content.
Murdoch even goes so far as to say that he’ll eventually mount a legal challenge to the doctrine of fair use, which allows third parties to use small snippets of copyrighted material without permission for certain purposes, including education and criticism — and, in Google’s view, search indexing.
Publishers have long had a love-hate relationship with Google and Google News. On the one hand, Google News, for many people, has established itself as a substitute front page, making newspaper home pages all but irrelevant. On the other hand, many newspaper.coms receive much of their traffic from Google.
Now Murdoch has adjusted the equation to pure hate.
First, he may enjoy some success in shoring up WSJ.com, by far his highest-quality outlet, which is already partly subscription-based. But if he thinks people will pay for online access to the sagging New York Post or even a successful operation like Fox News, then he’s going to learn a bitter lesson.
Second, by essentially killing his Web sites, he may well succeed in shoring up print circulation. That’s a short-term strategy, but it may be exactly what he’s got in mind.