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

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In other words, trying to create a cartel for news is like trying to corner the market on oxygen. You can seal up all the doors and windows in your house, but people will still find a way to breathe.

Murdoch, the Associated Press, and various other publishers have been whining about search engines and other aggregators "stealing" their content for years, even though technically they aren't doing anything of the sort. Google News and its ilk are merely summarizing that content and linking to it.

No, the people stealing the newspapers' content are the second- and third-tier blogs. But the blogs have no money, so they're not worth suing.

Good Morning Silicon Valley's John Murrell has a fun take on it:

Once you get past the part about it being antithetical to the core values of the Web and a disservice to all human beings, you can see the appeal of such an arrangement. Microsoft is willing to spend a considerable amount of money to distinguish itself from Google and increase its search share. Newspaper publishers are in need of a considerable amount of money to survive in the digital age and are looking for somebody, anybody, to pay for their content. And both parties, for different reasons, would be happy to see Google pressured into shelling out some bucks to index certain content.

The problem is that if only a few publishers, even as big as News Corp., choose Bing exclusivity, Google's users may not even notice and the search-share needle won't budge.

Here's what this strategy really means: It's a tacit admission that erecting a pay wall -- which readers must climb over in order to access your content -- is a dumb idea.

The publishers want somebody to pay them for the right to access their content online. But deep down they know consumers aren't likely to do it, especially when they can get the same stuff for free elsewhere. So publishers are looking for deep-pocket types like Microsoft and Google (if they could) to foot the bill. Readers of a particular publication must then declare their loyalty to one search engine, or use two (or more) engines to get a full range of viewpoints. This doesn't help consumers one bit.

Still, the notion of Ballmer getting in bed with Murdoch is just too juicy to pass up. It would be like Lex Luther hooking up with Darth Vader, or Snidely Whiplash teaming with Dastardly John. You've got to love it just for the entertainment value.

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