Rupert Murdoch’s ravings about Google and the newspaper business need to be kept in perspective: He runs a diversified global media company. All of his newspaper holdings could go to zero tomorrow, and News Corp. would barely feel it.Murdoch also loves to make news in addition to printing it, and wild loose-cannon threats and rhetoric make news (which sells newspapers). So Murdoch’s rhetoric also needs to be kept in perspective.
That said, on the topic of Google and online news, Murdoch increasingly just sounds like all talk and no substance.
Check out these quotes from Paul Harris’s Guardian coverage of a recent Murdoch appearance at George Washington University:
- “We are going to stop people like Google or Microsoft or whoever from taking stories for nothing … there is a law of copyright and they recognise it.
Really? When? Murdoch has been saying the same thing for a year. Given how long the legal process takes, if Murdoch is going to sock Google with some huge lawsuit, wouldn’t it be better to do it soon? As far as we know, running linked headlines (which most news organisations actually appreciate) doesn’t violate any copyright law we’ve heard of. Murdoch has threatened in the past to get the laws changed. That’s an innovative idea (It sure doesn’t suck to be a media mogul with millions to blow on changing the playing field). But, again, when?
- He said search engines had tapped into a “river of gold” by aggregating content but that the days of free news had to come to an end. “They take [news content] for nothing. They have got this very clever business model,” he said.
Correct. But the question remains: What are you going to do about it?
- Murdoch dismissed [the concern that consumers might not be willing to pay for news], saying consumers could be forced to change their habits. “When they have got nowhere else to go they will start paying. If it is reasonable. No one is going to ask for a lot of money,” he said.
We’ll see. Every paywall experiment thus far (the WSJ excepted) has been a colossal failure. We expect the same will be said for any future paywall initiatives, especially now that a new breed of news organisations with viable business models is growing out of the wreckage.
- Murdoch also fired a shot at the New York Times…by saying its paywall plans were halfhearted and needed to be more restrictive. “They don’t seem to be able to make up their mind. They will have opposition internally from some of their journalists, especially their columnists,” he said.”To really make it work they have got to put a paywall up. I think most newspapers in [the US] have got to have a paywall.”
That’s true. The NYT is deeply ambivalent about this. And the decision to wait until 2011 to implement the paywall is ridiculous. The NYT should try it now, see what happens, and then commit to free or paid forevermore.
And here’s the real hallucination:
- “I got a glimpse of the future last weekend with the Apple iPad. It is a wonderful thing,” he said. “If you have less newspapers and more of these … it may well be the saving of the newspaper industry.”
We’ll believe it when we see it. We think the paid iPad news app is the second coming of the CD-ROM. We can’t understand why anyone would want to pay for an app when they can get the same content in more open and convenient form on the web. And the early iPad download habits seem to support this.
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