Fox News takes on Google

Rupert Murdoch says he may make his sites invisible to Google and other news aggregators. Good luck with that, Sir Rupe

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As PaidContent's Staci D. Kramer points out, however, Murdoch does not seem to understand how his own flagship publication actually works online:

I just found two WSJ stories through Google and was able to read each of them in different browsers. Clicking a second story from the article page brought up a promo about how I could see more of the Journal free online—if I register—but I could still read the story. Third story—I was blocked. (I’m a subscriber but logged out to test this.) The Journal isn’t invisible—but much of it can be impenetrable after a certain point.

I'm with Staci on that one. It used to be you simply couldn't get WSJ content online without paying. Now about half the time I can find the Journal story I'm looking for -- and the rest of the time I can find a pretty good summary elsewhere.

Let's presume News Corp figures this out and manages to keep all of its content from being indexed by Google News. (Or, as the wags at eSarcasm suggest, succeeds in melting down the Googleplex with a solar death ray.) What happens to News Corp then? Not much. Google News is really for people who like to choose from a wide range of sources. Murdoch's audience -- and judging by comments and e-mails I receive, many residents of Cringeville fall into that category -- have already picked the news sources they trust. They aren't looking for alternative viewpoints. So in that sense, Murdoch is on safe ground; blocking Google isn't going to hurt him much.

The paywall issue though is a bigger problem, in my ever so humble opinion. News is a commodity. Even if one source breaks an exclusive story -- and those are incredibly rare -- everyone else will have it within the hour. And the good ones will follow up with new information, moving the story along. Because that's the way journalism works.

Worse, it only takes one blogger with a paid subscription to blab that exclusive story to the rest of the world. I don't care how many $700-an-hour lawyers you have, you won't be able to suppress that. What happens next? The world flocks to the blogger's door, because the site is free, and skips the original source with the coin box attached.

Do they get a crisply reported, well-written story? Probably not. Do most people care? Not particularly.

What's the solution? If I knew that, I'd be swimming in caviar and Cristal instead of busting my hump here three times a week.

Many high-profile publications like the New York Times decided to embrace Google by making their publications easier to navigate via things like Fast Flip, and are speeding toward digital delivery mechanisms like the Amazon Kindle and the as-yet mythical Apple Tablet. Good ideas; not sure they'll make a damn bit of difference.

As I've said elsewhere, the bigger problem is that Google News and other online aggregators are not meritocracies. The best stories do not always rise to the top. It's a horse race where the only thing that matters is speed, cheating is encouraged, any nag can win, and the stragglers get sent to the glue factory.

Google's algorithms are broken. Fix those, and at least some of this problem goes away. Not for Murdoch, of course -- he's boycotting it. But maybe for the rest of us SDWKs.

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