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Murdoch threatens to yank News Corp. from Google News

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Rupert Murdoch says his company will forbid its content from appearing in Google search results once pay-walls are set up across News Corp websites.

Speaking in an interview with Sky News Australia on Friday, the media tycoon reiterated previous threats to begin charging for online content across the company's newspapers, while accusing companies like Google and Microsoft of "stealing" stories via their news aggregation services.

Asked why News Corp. doesn't simply choose not to be listed on Google's search engine, Murdoch said this will likely happen.

"Well, I think we will," said Murdoch. "But that's when we start charging. We do it already with the Wall Street Journal. We have a wall, but it's not right to the ceiling. You can get the first paragraph of any story, but if you're not a paying subscriber of WSJ.com there's immediately — there's a paragraph and a subscription form."

Murdoch is actually incorrect on the WSJ business. Google confirms with us that the newspaper's website uses the First Click Free program, where publishers who charge access agree to allow all users who find the page through Google see the full page without requiring registration or a subscription. Clicking on additional links on the website will then bring up a payment request.

Murdoch added that the concept of fair use rules protecting search engines will ultimately be rejected by courts (once News Corps is done milking existing ad-based revenue).

"There's a doctrine called fair use which we believe could be challenged in the courts and barred altogether — but, you know, it's OK. We're getting a lot of advertising revenue, so we'll take that slowly."

The mogul argues that content aggregators like Google News don't attract loyal customers providing a steady stream of clicks.

"What's the point of having someone come occasionally who likes a headline they see on Google?" he asked. "There's not enough advertising in the world to make all the websites profitable. We'd rather have fewer people come to our website, but paying."

Murdoch also mentions that News Corp. has "been asleep" by not requiring users to pay for content, asserting that customers are "very happy to pay for it when they buy a newspaper." (Wait, people still buy newspapers?)

When reached for comment, a Google spokesman told El Reg in an email that it would not respond specifically on Murdoch's comments, but said Google News and web search are a tremendous source of promotion for news organizations, sending them about 100,000 clicks each minute.

Google also hinted at calling Murdoch's bluff, telling us that news orgs are in complete control over whether their content appears in search results or not. "If publishers want their content to be removed form Google News specifically, all they need to do is tell us and we'll remove them as a source," Google wrote.

For all his threats, Murdoch doesn't seem in a terrible hurry to act upon them. Last week, Murdoch confirmed that his company is not likely to meet its previous June deadline for establishing pay-walls around all its extensive catalog of newspaper websites, from The Sun to The Times.

The entire interview is available on Sky News Australia's YouTube channel. Catch it below. ®

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