Google To Murdoch: Go Ahead & Block Us

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.

Related Topics: Channel: Content | Google: Critics | Google: News | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Matt,

    I think Google wins this game of chicken. Indeed, as long as one company is willing to provide users with free quality news and analysis the mass market will choose free + advertisements vs paid. If news publishers collectively agreed to bar Google robots and start requiring paid subscriptions then Google might start sweating. Until then, Google remains in the position of power.

  • Matt McGee

    Exactly my thoughts, too, George. If it’s just News Corp, okay, there are plenty of other news sources out there worldwide. But … if a group of the big publishers got together and collectively did something to remove themselves from Google? I think Google has a problem at that point.

  • Avintrue

    So I would have to say that principle of pointing a finger with three pointing back at you is a good example here. If you are directly attacking Google, Bing, and Ask.com you probably should not be on the internet at all. Those are three of the four major search engines, excluding Yahoo. I work for an SEO company as a business and marketing consulting and to take yourself off of those search engines is business suicide. It wouldnt be a matter of less business. It would be a matter of no business. Over 90% of all internet traffic is search driven, while 70% of that traffic is through Google directly. How do you plan on getting known if you arent in a search engine? Just exclude articles, don’t remove yourself entirely. I would say Google doesnt need their business anyway. Good move Google.

  • http://www.jumpkicktofreedom.com dmarsch

    Interesting stuff… and if anything, this underestimates the importance of google to News Corp as a whole. From this data, WSJ looks to have a solid core of returning users, many of whom may in fact pony up to get access to top-tier financial reporting.

    But the other News Corp sites? The Sun or News of the World or New York Post? They don’t have any real differentiators from all the other sources out there, and certainly nothing that would compel a user to actually pay for the information. I’d hazard a guess that these other sites receive an even larger share of their traffic from search, and would absolutely tank if they start blocking spiders.

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