You can always count on Rupert Murdoch, the cantankerous News Corp. chairman, for a good laugh and he didn't disappoint this week during an interview on Sky News Australia in which he boldly stated his sites would pull out of Google Search. In fact, he once again accused search engines of outright stealing his content.
Let's Examine The Facts, Shall We
Here's what Murdoch has to say about search engines:
Sky News: You've been particularly critical of what you call 'the content kleptomaniacs' and the plagiarists. Are you particularly talking about Google here?
Murdoch: Well, the people who simply pick up everything and run with it and steal our stories...they just take them.
Sky News: Who?
Murdoch: There's Google. There's Microsoft, um Ask.com. There's a whole lot of people.
If you go to Google News and enter a search for News Corp (or anything you like), you see a list of headlines, which are live links, the publication name and a blurb. You don't see the full story or even a full paragraph. There is just enough there to make a decision and click through. I'm wondering what exactly Google is stealing here.
The Sky News interviewer, David Speers, goes on to ask Murdoch is that not just driving traffic to his web site (which by the way, most sane business people see as a good thing), and Murdoch admits that it's just a headline (where in the previous sentence he suggested they were stealing his content). So which is it, Rupert?
Saying Goodbye to Google
To his credit, the Speers asks Murdoch why he doesn't just block his sites from Google. And Murdoch, unbelievably (at least to me), says, "I think we will." In his view, he sees Google traffic as valueless (or at least not having enough value to make it worth his while to want it).
The Man Is a Walking Contradiction
Ultimately, Murdoch rambles, contradicts, and often makes little sense in this interview. In most instances, he shows a distinct lack of understanding how the web works (yet in his paradoxical way sees the end of print, perhaps with in 20 years, as part of our changing world). While Murdoch has grown a worldwide media empire from meager beginnings, and that's an impressive feat, the fact is that times have changed, and Murdoch can't seem to get his arms around the extent of the change.
At one point, he suggests that newspapers made a mistake by not charging on the internet from the beginning, which may be so, but that ship has sailed. He says, search engines steal his content, yet he admits that they don't. He says that they should charge for content, but he's not sure how to do that. He seems to get that the internet has changed everything, at least on some level, yet he doesn't understand how search engines would help him.
One thing is clear. He wants to return to the days of silos and the fact is that those days are over. Maybe the days of the huge media empires are over too and maybe that's a good thing for us all.