There’s been plenty of recent discussion about Rupert Murdoch and his “I’m taking my sites out of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)” campaign (which I mentioned in this post), and much of the debate centers around whether he is serious or just blustering. Jack Schafer at Slate seems to lean towards the latter, saying:
Murdoch is simply jawboning. Three months ago he promised that News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS) would start charging for its newspapers by June 2010. Now he doubts that the company will hit that mark. In typical Murdochian fashion, he’s sowing confusion and harvesting bewilderment.
If it were in News Corp.’s economic interests to dig an Internet moat around its newspaper properties, Murdoch would have already done it rather than talk about it. Instead, he’s shouting about it to signal to his competitors 1) where he’d like to take News Corp. and 2) his desperate desire for them to follow.
Mark Cuban is convinced that it’s worth it for Murdoch to at least try to do without Google, since there’s the chance that it might actually pay off, and if it doesn’t then he can just re-enter the index and things will go back to normal (I’m not sure that’s the case, but then I’m not a media mogul like Mark). But Mike Arrington at TechCrunch does the best job of laying out what might be at the core of Rupert’s strategy (assuming he isn’t just blustering).
In a nutshell, the idea is that Rupert cuts a deal with either Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) or Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) to index his sites (similar to the deal he cut with Google to index MySpace), and hopes that this encourages other major media outlets to do the same. If he can get enough to jump on board — and it sounds like Associated Press is halfway there already — the thinking is he could put pressure on Google to pay up as well. Mike Butcher at TechCrunch Europe has some more ammunition for this view, with reports of secret negotiations between Microsoft and some of the major publishers.
Erick Schonfeld has compared this “Come on, boys — let’s give Google what for!” strategy to the final scene in the movie Gallipoli, and to a military strategy from Blackadder (I’ve chosen General George Armstrong Custer). But whether it’s Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn or Gallipoli or Don Quixote tilting at windmills, the underlying point is that Murdoch’s approach seems futile. Will other media outlets join his crusade? Perhaps — but I doubt enough of them to make a difference.
Will people switch search engines in order to get specific content from specific media outlets? I highly doubt it. Of course, all Rupert has to do is convince Microsoft or Yahoo that they will do so, and then get them to pay him. Even in failing, the old bugger could still wind up winning.