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Wonder what's new at FindAnyFloor.com or in the technology world in general? Visit Damien's Blog to find out. You'll get some of the latest technology news, emerging trends, and stories from our CEO's travels, businesses and life experience among several industries.

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Damien's Blog

Google vs Rupert Murdoch and the Future of Newsprint in America

By Damien Patton, (701 words) Posted in Corporate on November 24, 2009
There are (50) comments permalink

We all know that newspapers are losing circulation at an alarming rate. Some reports show them gaining circulation, but this is because of new rules that they are allowed to use to count subscribers. The AP did a nice article on this entitled Newspaper Circulation May Be Worse Than It Looks. A few weeks ago I was in Silicon Valley staying at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt. Each morning the New York Times was placed outside my front door. It was also placed at every other door in the hotel. I quickly thought, what a waste of resources. By the time the maids came to the rooms, most of the papers were still on the ground, unread, and then discarded. How many other hotels in America is this occurring at, and why is the New York Times being circulated at hotels in San Francisco instead of the local paper? No wonder papers like NY Times have inflated circulation rates. If you actually looked at readership and not circulation, you would find that numbers are much worse than reported.

In order to combat declining newspaper subscriptions, media mogul Rupert Murdoch (News Corp), has been considering having Google de–index his news sources (Wall Street Journal, News Corp). The thought behind this is that people will then be forced to pay for an electronic subscription if they want to read the story. Google has expressed concern about this request. One of Google’s concerns may be the loss of good news sources for search engine users, but the other has to be recent articles like the one in Financial Times about Microsoft (BING) and News Corp eying a web pact. Both of these moves seem to be desperate and are likely to not achieve the goals Murdoch and his news organizations have.

First, many people find the stories in the Wall Street Journal and other Murdoch owned companies such as Fox News, in search engines, especially Google. When visitors from search engines go to these stories, the newspaper is getting a visitor they more than likely never would have received. More importantly these news sources are getting viewers for their online advertisers. Yes, the people keeping the newspapers alive. In addition, readers might bookmark the news story or the website and become a frequent visitor. In fact, many of these readers share news stories on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. With paid subscription to news, all of the above would end. No more readers from searches in Google, no link sharing on social networks, and no bookmarking for regular visits. Some might argue that if Murdoch and Bing join forces, then people will still be able to find news results in search engines. Bing is less than 10% of all US searches despite the fact that most PC owners are forced to use it at initial start up. Since Bing’s initial 100 million dollars advertising campaign has ended, their search numbers have started to decline from the mid 10% range to the mid 9% range. One of News Corps rivalries is MSNBC, so why would we support a Microsoft company, especially when it is not close to being a market leader.

Second, and more important, does Murdoch not understand the internet? What would prevent someone with a subscription from scraping (copying) the story and sharing in social media sites (that are indexed by Google)? It is not inconceivable that someone outside the US would create a free news source where they posted all the "paid" content. Of course most of the search engines would index this site until there was legal action against them. But in the end it would difficult to stop independent sites that decided to display these stories.

With the rising popularity of YouTube, social networking sites, and personal reporters (CNN’s i–reporter), it is unlikely than any move by News Corp to hide their content from non-paying members will have any success. In the end they will probably hurt their subscription base, lose advertisers due to declining site visitors, and push loyal readers to other news sources. What is this saying? It costs less to keep a customer than trying to win them back. Maybe News Corp should think about this before they go experimenting in areas (the web) they know little about.

Icon: author blog About the Author:
Damien is the Founder and CEO of FindAnyFloor.com as well as several other technolgy businesses specializing in social media and search.
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