Rupert Murdoch has a strategic vision for News Corporation and the massive amount of content it publishes every day in such major news outlets as The Wall Street Journal, The Times (UK), and The Daily Telegraph (Australia): he wants to take all of it off the grid. The Google grid, that is.
In a recent interview with Sky News, Murdoch said that when News Corp. launches its paid-content strategy, Google and other search engines will be blocked from searching and indexing its content.
Claiming that readers who reach a page of content via search hold little value to advertisers, he said that Google and other websites have had a free ride on News Corp.'s content, with little value accruing to the outlets that create and publish it. When readers click a link generated by search, he said "they get the page with the story that's in our paper. Who knows who they are or where they are? They don't suddenly become loyal readers of our content."
He added: "There's not enough advertising in the world to make all the websites profitable. We'd rather have fewer people coming to our websites but paying."
But before people will want to pay for content, they will have to find it first, say critics, such as Bill Tancer of Hitwise Intelligence. According to Experian Hitwise, Google and Google news are the top traffic providers for WSJ.com, accounting for more than 25% of WSJ.com's traffic, and more than 44% of WSJ.com visitors coming from Google are "new" users who haven't visited the domain in the last 30 days.
Murdoch may be gambling that Twitter and Facebook will drive sufficient traffic to News Corp. sites. These channels sent 4% of US visits to News and Media sites in October 2009, according to Experian Hitwise, which also notes that the percentage of upstream traffic from Facebook and Twitter to News and Media sites is up 490% year-over-year.
New York Times blogger Eric Etheridge samples comments from those who consider Murdoch's strategy quixotic and those who find it potentially inspired.
Wired blogger Lore Sjoberg semifacetiously suggests that Murdoch's strategy amounts to "reinventing news as an exclusive club that you can't find just by entering a search term. Presumably, Murdoch's New York Post, for example, will be renamed to something hip and enigmatic, like Velocity or Unk. The new URL won't be publicized. To get it, you'll have to know somebody, or know somebody who knows somebody, or know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody, or show a lot of cleavage…. The website will be dark, noisy and disorienting, just like an exclusive club or a MySpace page. There will be a two-drink minimum. I'm not sure how that will work, actually, but if anyone can force people to buy $10 beers while browsing the web, it's my man Rupert."
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