Is there a Fox in Microsoft's hen house?

The House of Murdoch and the House of Redmond may be teaming up to kneecap Google. Newspaper publishers might like that idea, but you shouldn't

Is Microsoft planning a secret news cartel that will ace out Google? Are Steve Ballmer and Rupert Murdoch in cahoots? That's the butt scuttling across the blogosphere this morning, as reports leak that Bing has offered to pay News Corp. actual cash dollars for exclusive rights to index its various properties (Wall Street Journal, FoxNews.com, et al).

[ Also on InfoWorld: Is Rupert Murdoch right to blame Google for the decline of the newspaper industry? Weigh in on "Fox News takes on Google" | Stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

According to London's Financial Times:

Microsoft has had discussions with News Corp over a plan that would involve the media company being paid to “de-index” its news web sites from Google, setting the scene for a search engine battle that could offer a ray of light to the newspaper industry....

...the Financial Times has learnt that Microsoft has also approached other big online publishers to persuade them to remove their sites from Google’s search engine.

Microsoft using bribes to get what it wants? We are shocked, shocked to hear such accusations -- well, except for the many times Microsoft tried to bribe consumers into using its products, that is.

TechCrunch Europe has more on Microsoft's alleged overtures to other publishers (edited to remove unnecessary blather):

We’ve confirmed with our sources that ... Microsoft’s Peter Bale, Executive Producer of MSN UK... made a presentation to representatives of newspaper publishers such as the Financial Times, News International, Associated Newspapers, Germany’s Axel Springer and publishers from Poland and Italy, among others....

...Microsoft plans to launch an assault on Google’s flank, by cozying up to major content providers, especially newspapers, that feel hard done by Google News. It plans to use Bing as a way to entice them out of the Google eco-system, into one where, increasingly, the content of major newspapers could well be found more often on Bing than on Google.

Even if this story is true and Bing succeeds in locking up searches for all content from these publishers, this is a lame and desperate strategy for many reasons.

As Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan sagely notes:

Ideally, what the AP or Murdoch want is an OPEC for news. They want to control the flow of news through the pipelines they think their news cartels control. As far as they’re concerned, they (and only they) have tapped into news reservoirs that exist.

In reality, news is going to get out. Even if the cartel were solid and managed to all block Google (or another search engine), the news itself still flows.

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