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.