Tags: google | murdoch | pay | wall

Newspapers Join Murdoch's Google Blockade

Wednesday, 25 Nov 2009 12:02 PM

By John Rossomando

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Newspaper publishers reeling from the Internet-spurred decline of print advertising may join Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in considering blocking Google from displaying their news articles.

U.S. newspaper publishers lost 28 percent of their print and online revenue in the third quarter, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

The Internet search engine’s news site displays key-word searches of thousands of news articles from around the world, but if the publishers of the Denver Post and Dallas Morning News have their way, Google will be unable to access their content.

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“This is traffic that’s not being monetized to any great degree,” said James Moroney, executive vice president with A.H. Belo, the Morning News’ publisher, which also owns the Providence (R.I.) Journal and the Riverside Press-Enterprise in California. “It’s akin to a person who drops into town, buys one copy of your newspaper and leaves town again, and yet you spend a whole bunch of time building your business around that type of customer.”

Moroney told Bloomberg that his company is more interested in attracting “really engaged consumers who come multiple times and stay for lots of minutes every time” than readers who run upon articles by chance.

Publishers have criticized Google's use of its stories for a long time, but fewer than 100 ? about 1 percent of the total it links to ? have blocked their content from appearing in the search engine’s Web searches. In 2007, a Belgian newspaper successfully sued Google for copyright infringement and blocked it from linking to its articles.

A.H. Belo hasn’t made a firm commitment on whether it will block Google, but Moroney said doing so would be part of a larger strategy.

Denver Post publisher MediaNews Group Inc. says it will block Google News from accessing content it plans to place behind a “pay wall” starting early next year at newspapers it owns in Chico, Calif., and York, Pa.

“The things that go behind pay walls, we will not let Google search to, but the things that are outside the pay wall, we probably will, because we want the traffic,” said Denver-based Media News Group CEO Dean Singleton.

Meanwhile, News Corp. reportedly is talking with Microsoft about displaying its articles exclusively on its Bing search engine. Murdoch’s company owns the New York Post, Times of London, Fox News, Sky News, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.

The Wall Street Journal already charges for online subscriptions and has said it plans to increase its amount of paid content.

Google is concerned about the moves and hopes the publishers will continue allowing it to access their content.

“We worry about it, and we think it would be a bad outcome,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said this month. “We would encourage them to stay in our program.”

The head of the search engine’s news division, Josh Cohen, disputes the publishers’ claims they get nothing in return for allowing Google to access their content.

“You can point back to the traffic that we’re sending and the fact that so few of those publishers have opted out as a pretty strong case that there’s value being delivered back to these publishers,” Cohen said.

It would take a significant number of publishers to have any significant measurable impact on Google’s search results.

“It’s a tree-in-the-forest kind of a thing,” said Greg Sterling, principal at Sterling Market Intelligence, a San Francisco-based consulting and research firm. “I don’t think people would notice” if a single publisher opted out of the searches.

“There’s value in that traffic, and I think publishers recognize that value. The reason they’re not opting out is they’re getting something from that relationship.”

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