The long-running debate over Google and its impact on newspapers and journalism took another turn today when News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch said his company may makes its sites invisible to Google, and Google fired back by saying, in essence, bring it on.
It began with this interview on Australia’s Sky News (which Murdoch owns), reported by the Australian site mUmBRELLA, in which Murdoch reiterated his belief that Google and other search engines “steal” their stories:
“The people who just simply pick up everything and run with it, and steal our stories. We say they steal our stories — they just take them without payment. There’s Google, there’s Microsoft, Ask.com … there’s a whole lot of people.”
Murdoch agrees that Google sends his news sites a lot of traffic it might not have gotten on its own, but questions the value of that traffic to advertisers. He says, plainly: “We’d rather have fewer people coming to our web sites, but paying.” And when asked why his sites haven’t made themselves invisible to Google and other search engines/news aggregators, Murdoch says: “Well, I think we will. But that’s when we start charging.”
To that, Google fired back today, telling the Telegraph that, essentially, they don’t care if Murdoch wants to block its sites from being found via search and/or Google News.
A spokesman for the search giant said: “Google News and web search are a tremendous source of promotion for news organisations, sending them about 100,000 clicks every minute.
“Publishers put their content on the web because they want it to be found, so very few choose not to include their material in Google News and web search. But if they tell us not to include it, we don’t.”
Google is referring, of course, to using robots.txt or a similar protocol to keep content from being indexed. Danny Sullivan wondered aloud why Google’s critics in journalism weren’t already doing that, especially after the Wall Street Journal recently accused Google of “encouraging promiscuity” online by allowing searchers to bounce from one news site to the next with no loyalty. Danny also sat down recently with Google CEO Eric Schmidt for a lengthy conversation about Google and journalism.
The debate/battle is far from over. The question now, at least where Google and Murdoch are concerned is: Who’ll blink first?
Postscript: Bill Tancer has posted about this on the Hitwise blog today, specifically with a look at the traffic that Google sends to the Wall Street Journal’s web site:
“…on a weekly basis Google and Google news are the top traffic providers for WSJ.com account for over 25% of WSJ.com’s traffic. Even more telling. According to Experian Hitwise data, over 44% of WSJ.com visitors coming from Google are ‘new’ users who haven’t visited the domain in the last 30 days.”
Note From Danny Sullivan: I’ve also posted some related thoughts today in my Why An Exclusive Wall Street Journal Deal Wouldn’t Help Bing article.