Google and Murdoch - a divorce made in heaven?

It's about money, but not bribes from Bing


Analysis Microsoft is known for its robust methods, but the widespread belief that it is attempting to 'buy' the news, offering to pay Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to de-index its news sites from Google speaks of extreme brutality, even by the Borg's standards. And think, people - if Microsoft really is offering to bribe major publishers to dump Google, might not the regulatory authorities have something to say?

Photo: New York Public Library

So let's all just calm down, and try to figure out what might really be happening. First of all, consider what Murdoch himself has been saying. Earlier this month he said it was likely that News Corp would pull its titles out of Google search once it started charging for them, and: "We'd rather have fewer people coming to our website, but paying."

Now consider what Google has been saying - that it doesn't make money from news, and that Google does not need news content to survive. Google doesn't need News Corp, and News Corp reckons it could get along just fine without Google.

It's not like anybody involved cares...

So it's a divorce made in heaven? The financials back Murdoch to an extent. The Wall Street Journal, News Corp's paywall poster child, gets around 25 per cent of its traffic from Google, but obviously gets no subscription revenue from that, and it's not traffic that can be easily monetised. Silicon Alley Insider, using a methodology which we suspect may have included eye of newt, estimated that the WSJ only made $10-$15 million from its Google-derived traffic. We suspect that estimate might be on the high side, and it's likely that traffic coming from Google News (estimated by Hitwise at around 12 per cent) is worth a tad more than general search traffic.

Hitwise also reckons that Google search traffic (as a perentage of total WSJ readership) to the WSJ has doubled since 2006, while Google News traffic has tripled. In the world where Google is the gift that keeps giving, this is A Good Thing - but there are reasons why Murdoch might disagree here.

As Rupe says, the traffic isn't worth much. For subscribers, the WSJ is able to deploy demographic data in support of its ad sales operations, while for Google blow-ins it isn't. So from the WSJ's perspective unidentified one page clicks from Google aren't going to be worth a lot, and insofar as they mean that the sale isn't 100 per cent subscriber, they may even cost money.

Murdoch's pitch is all perfectly logical - almost. It fits the WSJ pretty well, but trying to apply that to The Times or the Sun falls into the 'rather you than me, Rupe' category. The other obvious question is, if you wall off Google - or even all search - traffic entirely, how much is that going to impact reader recruitment? News Corp may well have some internal data on that, we don't. It's possible, however, that the answer is not a lot.

Google's impact on the traffic of publishers is not as great as people tend to believe. If you cut off Google you'd take a hit (around 25 per cent for the WSJ, according to the Hitwise numbers), certainly, but people would still hear about you even if you started blocking all link traffic without even bothering to redirect it to the front page. It's by no means certain that circulation would collapse, or go into a steady decline as readers died, if Murdoch just dropped out of Google.


Other stories you might like

  • Carnival Cruises torpedoed by US states, agrees to pay $6m after waves of cyberattacks
    Now those are some phishing boats

    Carnival Cruise Lines will cough up more than $6 million to end two separate lawsuits filed by 46 states in the US after sensitive, personal information on customers and employees was accessed in a string of cyberattacks.

    A couple of years ago, as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold, the Miami-based biz revealed intruders had not only encrypted some of its data but also downloaded a collection of names and addresses; Social Security info, driver's license, and passport numbers; and health and payment information of thousands of people in almost every American state.

    It all started to go wrong more than a year prior, as the cruise line became aware of suspicious activity in May 2019. This apparently wasn't disclosed until 10 months later, in March 2020.

    Continue reading
  • India extends deadline for compliance with infosec logging rules by 90 days
    Helpfully announced extension on deadline day

    India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the local Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) have extended the deadline for compliance with the Cyber Security Directions introduced on April 28, which were due to take effect yesterday.

    The Directions require verbose logging of users' activities on VPNs and clouds, reporting of infosec incidents within six hours of detection - even for trivial things like unusual port scanning - exclusive use of Indian network time protocol servers, and many other burdensome requirements. The Directions were purported to improve the security of local organisations, and to give CERT-In information it could use to assess threats to India. Yet the Directions allowed incident reports to be sent by fax – good ol' fax – to CERT-In, which offered no evidence it operates or would build infrastructure capable of ingesting or analyzing the millions of incident reports it would be sent by compliant organizations.

    The Directions were roundly criticized by tech lobby groups that pointed out requirements such as compelling clouds to store logs of customers' activities was futile, since clouds don't log what goes on inside resources rented by their customers. VPN providers quit India and moved their servers offshore, citing the impossibility of storing user logs when their entire business model rests on not logging user activities. VPN operators going offshore means India's government is therefore less able to influence such outfits.

    Continue reading
  • Hangouts hangs up: Google chat app shuts this year
    How many messaging services does this web giant need? It's gotta be over 9,000

    Google is winding down its messaging app Hangouts before it officially shuts in November, the web giant announced on Monday.

    Users of the mobile app will see a pop-up asking them to move their conversations onto Google Chat, which is yet another one of its online services. It can be accessed via Gmail as well as its own standalone application. Next month, conversations in the web version of Hangouts will be ported over to Chat in Gmail. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022