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Murdoch Sounds The Death Knell For News Corp Soccer Coverage

rupert murdoch Murdoch Sounds The Death Knell For News Corp Soccer Coverage

In the clash between old media and new media, I find it comical to see traditional old media establishments floundering to survive and concocting irrational business plans to hold on to the very little power they still have. The best example is Rupert Murdoch’s recent attempt to remove the websites he owns from the Google search engine results pages, and his plans to put up a paywall for many of his news sites to prevent readers from accessing articles for free.

If Murdoch goes through with his plans, what that will mean for English football supporters like you and me is that beginning in the Spring of 2010, you will no longer have free access to articles published on websites owned by News Corp such as The Times, The Sun and News Of The World.

Now while I appreciate the writing of journalists from The Times such as Patrick Barclay, Gabriele Marcotti, Matt Dickinson. Tony Evans and Nick Szczepanik, and the same for Chris Bascombe of the News Of The World, I find it completely ridiculous and asinine that those publications would expect me to pay a yet to be determined fee for 24 hour access to their website beginning in June next year.

It’s asinine because the business model simply won’t work especially when you have other publications who offer free content (and just as good) as The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and many other online newspapers with excellent English football coverage.

Murdoch’s plans wreak of a man who is not comfortable losing power especially to a new media organization such as Google. Whether you believe Google is evil or not, the reality is that the search engine is a massive power in determining whether a website is popular or not, especially when a large percentage of traffic to any major website comes from the number one search engine.

In recent developments reported on Sunday in The Financial Times, Murdoch is now in preliminary talks with Microsoft to offer News Corp articles on Bing instead of Google. The advantage to having them on Bing, for Murdoch, is that Microsoft may be willing to pay Murdoch to block his content from being indexed by Google and only allow it to be accessed on Bing.

To me, what it comes down to at the end of the day is quality of content. While I appreciate the work that The Times does, I don’t feel they’re a leader in the world of online soccer coverage. If Murdoch decides to agree a deal with Bing, the biggest winner of this whole affair will be The Guardian who will likely increase the number of pageviews to their site and will benefit from an increase in revenue especially during the World Cup when advertising CPM rates should be much higher than usual.

The last thing the sports desk at The Times needs right now is The Guardian to gain more of an advantage. If Murdoch’s plans do go through, the reduction in web traffic (Bing currently has a market share of 9.4% of search engine searches) will be massive, but the blow will be cushioned by the money that Microsoft will throw at them.

My opinion is that Murdoch and Microsoft deserve each other. If Bing thinks it can win the search engine wars by buying traffic, then they’re horribly wrong. And if Murdoch thinks he can earn more revenue by moving his business away from Google, then he’s equally as misguided. Continue down that route and Murdoch can kiss the success of his online media empires goodbye.

The answer is that Murdoch needs to rethink his business model. Instead of creating paywalls that are frustrating when a reader is unable to access free online content, Murdoch needs to consider how to better optimize the advertising he does have on his sites to engage more with the reader. If that still doesn’t generate the revenues he needs to make, he and his team need to concentrate on how to better monetize the traffic that his sites get. The answer is out there and it’s definitely in the free model. The answer definitely isn’t going to a paid model where the value of his sites as an advertising venue would be greatly diminished.

Murdoch admitted recently that the Internet is “an emerging medium that is not my native language.” Based on his recent actions, that is completely self-evident.

This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

34 Responses to Murdoch Sounds The Death Knell For News Corp Soccer Coverage

  1. man99utd says:

    Gaffer,
    Wouldn’t this also effect Sky and Fox as well? I agree with your assessment. Murdoch is out of touch. I read TimesOnline everyday, but I’m not about to pay for it. I realise some may disagree. All I can suggest is stick to the newspaper.

    • The Gaffer says:

      man99utd, good question. I don’t believe it’ll affect Sky or Fox since both of those are primarily focus on sport coverage instead of news. For example, with Fox, many of the stories on FoxSoccer.com are syndicated from other news sources. And many of the stories on Sky’s website are sourced from their sports news program.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  2. Tyson says:

    Nice article. I am glad you bought attention to this a lot of people are probably unaware of this but you will be expected to pay to read what you are currently getting free from their websites if this goes through.

    When others are offering the same service for free it is ridiculous to be expected to pay for this. I hope they go through with this plan I’ll be happy to see News Corp fail.

  3. bruce nimmo says:

    writers such as tony evans ands chris bascombe?

    • The Gaffer says:

      Hi Bruce, Chris Bascombe is one of the top writers in England and has received several awards. Tony Evans has done some excellent work with The Times.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  4. Peter says:

    “If Murdoch goes through with his plans, what that will mean for English football supporters like you and me is that beginning in the Spring of 2010, you will no longer have free access to articles published on websites owned by News Corp such as The Times, The Sun and News Of The World.”

    Please, someone tell me how that is a bad thing. If we publish identities of BNP supporters on the internet, we should publish identities of Sun readers. You will probably find they are the same.

  5. tg says:

    We had this discussion over 10 years ago when newspapers finally got on board with the internet.

    The newspapers found out that offering free online service got more viewers than having to pay. But what is the ultimate consequence? They’re going bankrupt.

    Enjoy free media now. It’ll all be ‘pay-to-play’ within the next decade.

    • The Gaffer says:

      TG, no way. If anything, it’s going to go in the opposite direction and there’ll be more free content out there as organizations learn how to generate revenue in new ways.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • tg says:

        The problem is that the newsindustry is a dinosaur and won’t find out new ways to generate revenue before it’s too late.

        Papers across America (and England) are shuttering up or in bankruptcy hearings (Rocky Mtn News, Seattle P-I, Philiadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, Baltimore Examiner, Detroit Free Press, etc) and because of extremely low circulation and dropping advertising. Why the low circulation and lack of ad dollars? Because everyone reads news online, for free.

        It’s sad, but a reality.

        • The Gaffer says:

          It’s a shame, yes, but I don’t find it sad. Reason being is that the newspaper industry has had at least 10 years to come up with a solution and to change with the times but very few of them have. The current newspaper model is a dinosaur, I agree.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

      • Scott says:

        Nobody thought that people would pay to download music off of iTunes, or a similar platform, but they do.

        The newspapers are in a catch-22, but their basic obstacle is that many people today expect to get their content for free. It’s the newspapers fault for falling into the trap in the beginning but I don’t blame them for trying to find a way out. There are many, many blogs and websites out there that blantantly rip-off content; we’ve all seen it (hell, just look at any Examiner blog where the authors make money by re-using someone else’s work…it’s not even plagiarism since they don’t even hide the fact that it’s someone else’s work). Why are we surprised that the industry wants to protect, or even make money, off of it’s content? When a reporter writes an article or a story about Wayne Rooney, or any other player that they have access to, isn’t there a value in that? Or do we expect to get everything for free without any consequences?

        The problem, of course, is if only a portion of the industry does a pay to read scenario. But if we end up with all free content (and that is far from a certainty) I’m afraid that content will be a shell of its former self. What incentive is there for journalists, (and I mean true journalists – not someone that merely regurgitates whatever can be found on the web) to engage in any sort of research or effort for their product? Or do we really want the media of the next 100 years to be part-time reporters that merely glean whatever they can from free content floating around the web?

        Let’s say this plan of Murdoch’s does happen and his three papers flop as a result, is that really a good thing? Is it good to have less newpapers, less diversity of reporting? Do we really think, “I don’t care who I get information from or the quality of the information as long as I get it for free?” I think that is inherently bad.

        I love blogs and the “new media” and the interactivity that they provide, but let’s not kid ourselves – if that’s all we had…well, let’s hope that never happens.

        • tg says:

          Spot on Scott.

          And Gaffer, although the industry shooting themselves in the foot is in itself not sad at all, the prospect of not having newspapers is beyond sad.

          I really recommend everyone read David Simon’s speech before a senate hearing regarding newspapers. He said this:

          “I don’t know if it’s too late already for American newspapering, but if there is to be a renewal of the industry, a few things are certain and obvious. First, the industry is going to have to find a way to charge for online content. Yes, I’ve heard the postmodern rallying cry that information wants to be free. But information isn’t. It costs money to send reporters to London, to Fallujah, to Capitol Hill, and to send photographers with them, to keep them there day after day. It costs money to hire the best investigators and writers and then back them up with the best editors. And how anyone can believe that the industry can fund this kind of expense by giving its product away online to aggregators and bloggers is a source of endless fascination to me. A freshman marketing major in any community college can tell you that if you don’t have a product for which you can charge people, you don’t actually have a product.”

  6. brn442 says:

    Asinine? Yet to be determined. I think Google is the best thing since sliced bread but as Ken Auletta the Author of the most definitive book on the company personally observed how the company’s founders were actually shocked that Authors – he included, objected to Google publishing their books for free.

    Like you Gaffer, it looks to me as a self defeating move but so far traditional media have not gotten the balance right in creating business models that actually work with regards to their online content. Murdoch, as potentially asinine as it may be, has a right try as he sees fit.

    As today is the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s masterpiece, the natural selection of the marketplace will determine the intelligence of his actions.

    • The Gaffer says:

      brn442, I agree that Murdoch should have a choice to set up paywalls if he so chooses. I feel sorry for all of the employees who work under him who have no say in the matter who may eventually lose their jobs. Natural selection will run its course, there’s no doubt.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  7. The Gaffer says:

    Scott, don’t worry, the smarter newspapers will survive and they will still continue to generate the lion share of content that we love and consume each day. But I would like to point out that new media (such as blogs) are breaking news stories left, right and center across the web — sometimes several days before mainstream media catches on and reports it.

    A couple of recent examples would be the blogosphere getting the scoop on Miami FC registering the NASL name, and the scoop on this site about ESPN getting the rights to the Premier League.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  8. Eric Altshule says:

    Gaffer-

    You are 100% right about this. Charging for content on the internet is a doomed enterprise. The New York Times discovered this when they tried to charge for access to their popular columnists like Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman. The amount of people who paid for this was miniscule, and they lost the ad revenue that their columns normally generate. Murdoch’s mistake is he is misunderstanding his competition. His on-line publication is not competing with The Mirror or the Telegraph – his competition is you. The on-line free media that is offering tons of content to niche audiences is what is destroying the value of newspapers, and rather than compete, he is fleeing the battlefield. From your perspective, you should hope that Murdoch builds a giant firewall around all of his media. All it will do is drive more eyeballs to your site..

    • The Gaffer says:

      Excellent point Eric. But for the sake of English football fans like ourselves, I would prefer that they didn’t build a firewall so we can read articles from Patrick Barclay, Chris Bascombe, Gabriele Marcotti and others.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  9. The Gaffer says:

    Speaking of the whole business of free content vs paid content, it’ll be interesting to see how World Football Daily’s model works out where they’re launching a freemium model. They’ll be offering the free podcast as they always do, but they’ll also be offering premium content which is only available with a paid subscription of $4.95 per month. December the 4th is the kickoff date for the premium model for them.

    Biases aside, my personal belief is that the WFD premium model is flawed too. There are more than several dozen football podcasts out there that are free. The only benefit of paying for WFD’s $4.95/mth model is that if they add value, but I don’t see that happening. Free wins everytime.

    What is everyone’s thoughts on that?

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  10. DoublePivot says:

    I think WFD do add value and will survive because of it. They have very good and consistent guests. Vickery, Brassell, Hunter, Rae etc.

    When they returned with this plan, it was always going to be about the guests. The two of them add almost nothing to the landscape. But for $5, I’ll take the extra interviews because there really isn’t as much quality free content out there as you suggest. There are a lot of free podcasts, but the number that include good journos are limited.

    Would you pay for Football Weekly or the Ramble? As the News Agencies realize that this content they provide for free to advertise their papers may be more profitable…..I think the papers will become ways to advertise podcasts.

  11. Eric Altshule says:

    I am a fan of Steven Cohen and WFD, but I also fear for their business model. I think the only way that you can make money charging for premium content is if your content is wholly unique. Howard Stern is a good example of that. His brand of entertainment has proven to be very hard for others to duplicate and he has built enough of a following so that there are a critical mass of listeners who are willing to pay for his show. Is WFD’s premium content that unique? I doubt it. I enjoy WFD’s interviews with Grant Wahl, Phil Ball and the rest, but the internet has more soccer interviews and podcasts than I can possibly absorb. I am an Arsenal fan, and in just that narrow niche, there are several high quality podcasts that I simply don’t have time to listen to. I think the audience to purchase podcasts of this type is going to be pretty narrow.

  12. NYSpursFan says:

    I think newspapers definitely have to charge for content. The issue is that basic, breaking news is commoditized. Today, the PM of India is in the US. How many newspapers are reporting this fact? Probably hundreds (plus TV and cable, which I already pay for). So why should I go to a newspaper site and pay for this factual information? The answer lies in the content. Newspapers need to move away from commoditized journalism and more towards analysis and special content not available elsewhere. The NYT were on the right track, but they were not bold enough. The Wall Street Journal is the model to pay attention to. Free wins unless there is something worth paying for. BTW, if news moves en masse towards a pay to read model, Google’s source of free content slowly erodes.

  13. joe ginto says:

    I was really hoping this day wouldn’t come. Have listened to Steven since Wc 06. There’s no chance I’m paying for content. None. I’ll remove the feedcompletely as they’ll offer 15 mins or so of free content and then make interviews part of the “premium” content. I would just prefer not to be bothered at all. Just my $0.02, but I’m certain many feel the same. There are simply too many free options.

  14. Pat says:

    I don’t think there is anyway the WFD “freemium” model will work at all. All the content advertised as premium is interviews, which are usually fairly interesting, but there are not enough grade A football guests to justify 4.95. As you mentioned, there are a plethora of free football pods out there, and I much prefer ESPNSoccernet and the The Guardian’s podcasts even if WFD was free. While it is nice that they offer new content everyday, I just don’t think there of a difference from the free alternatives to justify the cost.

    I hope WFD has success and there is a place for daily football talk, but I don’t think there is enough to merit a monthly fee. If they need to generate more revenue, I think it would be better to draw in more listeners and attract bigger sponsors, not cut some of their content from the new listener who doesn’t know if it is worth paying for.

  15. GothamGunner says:

    It’s commical how little you know about online media, especially newspaper sites, and yet from your soapbox you pretend you’re an expert. These publications WILL go out of business if carry on allowing all content to be free.

    I say this not as an ignorant bystandard, but by an insider and employee of one of the biggies who is able to see the revenues of online advertising and the is NO comparison to what is made and being lost on the print side.

    It is a sad reality, but the paid model will be adopted by a great many news sites sooner rather thn later.

    • The Gaffer says:

      GothamGunner, which large media organization do you work for? I agree with you that many publications will go out of business, but not because they’re allowing content to be free but instead because they’re unwilling to change their business model.

      It’s no wonder that newspaper employees are scared of how much is being lost on the print side. The model doesn’t work anymore. Newspapers need to reinvent themselves, which means incredible amounts of change will happen in order to do so.

      News blogs such as The Huffington Post are leading the way and showing how it can be done. There are plenty of other success stories out there from both sides of the political fence.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • GothamGunner says:

        The Huffington Post is leading the way, but that is because it uses articles from other sites, and does not have to cover the expenses of investigative journalism and and security among other things. If more journalists and newspapers fold, what will Huff Po do? Last I check, there is no Baghdad bureau on their payroll.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong in your desire to maintain the current access to sites, but it is naive to think that any of these giants will be able to continue the quality of reporting without the introduction of a paid model.

        • The Gaffer says:

          Huffington Post has their own writers too and doesn’t just syndicate news from other sites unless you’re confusing them with The Drudge Report. The Huffington Post also has an investigative journalism department. While they’re not nearly as extensive as The New York Times or similar newspapers, they have good intentions.

          We obviously disagree about the paid model. I believe the newspapers have a great opportunity to make an advertiser supported model work and that a paid model is the wrong direction.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

  16. NYSpursFan says:

    What GothamGunner says is correct. The future model has the commodity news being offshored (see the reporters used by Reuters.com, for example), with premium content being aggregated into a few online brands. Maybe a few survive (NYT, WSJ, T of L, etc.). The rest will disappear and get folded into the survivors. The Baghdad correspondent will be a freelancer (or maybe a pool of quality freelancers). Really not that different from what’s happening in my industry (pharmaceuticals). The “basic” tasks are being off shored, and the few surviving employees focus on “premium” activities, else they lose their jobs to offshore, outsource, or online alternatives. Isn’t it ironic that the modern marvel we call the Internet is destroying so many jobs and economic value? If I lose my job, I can’t afford to buy the books being advertised on that Amazon.com link I see on the top of this page. There goes your advertising, Gaffer. And so it goes.
    P.S., COYS!!!

    • The Gaffer says:

      Times are tough, definitely, but there are always going to be companies around interested in advertising – whether they be Amazon or others. If Amazon disappears, there will be another advertiser to replace them.

      The next few years are going to see incredible changes happening in the media industry.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  17. GothamGunner says:

    What can I say, it’s a beautiful thing when a Spurs fan and an Arsenal fan agree!

    I do want to note that my comment was not in defense of Murdoch or his shoddy news empire.

    Cheers!

  18. REindex.com says:

    I think this is very interesting. Yes, the information is available in other places – or at least part of it may be, and from other perspectives. But, how is his idea different from having different magazines to read? People buy all kinds of magazines to read them. It is the content they want to read.

    I think the question is more, how much will it cost to be a reader? If it is $.02 / day, that is $7.30 / year. Is that too much to pay? I could see $1.00 per day as being a little much, but the Internet allows people all over the world to read the same info. And, there are 500,000 people paying more than that to read the NY Post every day. Magazines and papers sell now for multiple dollars per issue.

    His idea also minimzes his printing costs. From a business perspective, even $7.30 / year times 1 million readers is not a bad revenue with little overhead. There are almost 7 billion people. 1 million is a small fraction of a world wide subscriber base, and only twice what the existing NY Post circulation is. With no print costs, less need for offices and equipment, who knows.

    As the Internet evolves, as computers become tri-corders, become hand held life information tools, and as enterpeneurs continue to monetize their ideas, maybe he is just the leading edge.

  19. man99utd says:

    I’m ready to be corrected, but aren’t we all forgetting that we already pay for the internet, sometimes through the nose. I’m not paying for a bunch of news sites on top of that. Sorry, I’m get my news somewhere else. I pay for cable, but I won’t pay ABC, CBS or any other network additional fees on top of that….

  20. CFTV says:

    I am not sure if I will subscribe to WSD or not. I thought I heard Steven say that people that listen live won’t have to pay anything like if you watch the show on the UStream site or on their other streaming live options off their webpage and only the downloads would be what subscribers would pay for. Of course if they start to add more extra interviews that are taped after the show and get other people to start shows it might be something that I will look into. I always thought the show could improve if the guys used the time after the show to add more content and it looks like they are going to do it. I liked the idea of having a show with fans of the Top 4 and other shows they can try and do since with the show on the internet they can send out a live tweet or message through facebook to tune into the site for more content and a download later.

    One question I have was it the LFC Fans that boycotted the show that got the Sirius show cancelled, was it Sirius call to cancel the show in light of Steven’s words, or was it Steven’s call to end the show because he could figured that the show can make more money on the subscriber based model than putting it on Sirius for what they were paying for the show and giving the podcasts away too. Steven has made no bones that he is into the show for money along with his passion for futbol and he and Kenny obviously think this is the way to go with the show and if they can get 5k subscribers at nearly 5 bucks a head that is 25k a month or 300k dollars and 5k subcribers might be a low number. Add to that what advertising they do get and while its not a big amount of money that isn’t bad for a show that has 2 hosts, a producer. Of couse there is costs to run the show like rent, servers, and phone bills.

    What was WSD doing per day in downloads when they were up and rolling before the LFC incident? I wonder how many of those people will pay for the show now in these times.

  21. The Gaffer says:

    If you want to watch a humorous clip of how newspapers are dying, take a look at this hysterial Daily Show interview with The New York Times: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-june-10-2009/end-times

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

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