Feeds

Google and Murdoch - a divorce made in heaven?

It's about money, but not bribes from Bing

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Analysis Microsoft is known for its robust methods, but the widespread belief that it is attempting to 'buy' the news, offering to pay Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to de-index its news sites from Google speaks of extreme brutality, even by the Borg's standards. And think, people - if Microsoft really is offering to bribe major publishers to dump Google, might not the regulatory authorities have something to say?

Photo: New York Public Library

So let's all just calm down, and try to figure out what might really be happening. First of all, consider what Murdoch himself has been saying. Earlier this month he said it was likely that News Corp would pull its titles out of Google search once it started charging for them, and: "We'd rather have fewer people coming to our website, but paying."

Now consider what Google has been saying - that it doesn't make money from news, and that Google does not need news content to survive. Google doesn't need News Corp, and News Corp reckons it could get along just fine without Google.

It's not like anybody involved cares...

So it's a divorce made in heaven? The financials back Murdoch to an extent. The Wall Street Journal, News Corp's paywall poster child, gets around 25 per cent of its traffic from Google, but obviously gets no subscription revenue from that, and it's not traffic that can be easily monetised. Silicon Alley Insider, using a methodology which we suspect may have included eye of newt, estimated that the WSJ only made $10-$15 million from its Google-derived traffic. We suspect that estimate might be on the high side, and it's likely that traffic coming from Google News (estimated by Hitwise at around 12 per cent) is worth a tad more than general search traffic.

Hitwise also reckons that Google search traffic (as a perentage of total WSJ readership) to the WSJ has doubled since 2006, while Google News traffic has tripled. In the world where Google is the gift that keeps giving, this is A Good Thing - but there are reasons why Murdoch might disagree here.

As Rupe says, the traffic isn't worth much. For subscribers, the WSJ is able to deploy demographic data in support of its ad sales operations, while for Google blow-ins it isn't. So from the WSJ's perspective unidentified one page clicks from Google aren't going to be worth a lot, and insofar as they mean that the sale isn't 100 per cent subscriber, they may even cost money.

Murdoch's pitch is all perfectly logical - almost. It fits the WSJ pretty well, but trying to apply that to The Times or the Sun falls into the 'rather you than me, Rupe' category. The other obvious question is, if you wall off Google - or even all search - traffic entirely, how much is that going to impact reader recruitment? News Corp may well have some internal data on that, we don't. It's possible, however, that the answer is not a lot.

Google's impact on the traffic of publishers is not as great as people tend to believe. If you cut off Google you'd take a hit (around 25 per cent for the WSJ, according to the Hitwise numbers), certainly, but people would still hear about you even if you started blocking all link traffic without even bothering to redirect it to the front page. It's by no means certain that circulation would collapse, or go into a steady decline as readers died, if Murdoch just dropped out of Google.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.