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Google to Murdoch: Here’s a Piece of Rope. Have Fun!

Posted by susabelle at 9:13 AM on December 2, 2009

thumbs upToday, according to the Google Blog, Google is making some changes in the “First Click Free” way they have been indexing pages. Up until now, Google and publishers have worked together to allow Google to spider and index news sites, so that searchers can find it when they want it, but limiting the number of times or pages a searcher may see a particular news site (or link to other pages within the site), instead bringing up a registration/pay wall if the user wants more use. It’s all a bit complicated, but well-explained in the blog. Up until now, click-throughs on links inside news articles would progress normally; now, after five of these click-throughs, the user may encounter a registration or subscription page.

I think this is a really good move on Google’s part. Why? Because they’ve just handed Rupert Murdoch and others enough rope to hang themselves with. What do they think will happen with page rank when searchers can’t click through to articles anymore? The Google spider will stop at all such pages, dump them out of the indexing stream, and move on. This could effectively, and quickly, reduce the amount of news articles available to searchers, or put those news articles so far down the list that no one ever sees them. Google is essentially saying “go ahead, it’s your head on a platter, not ours.” If online news sources were already feeling the pinch of lowered ad revenues, what happens when their page rank drops, and the cost per ad view goes up because of it? Do they think advertisers will stick around for such little return on their investment?

Free news is not the problem. Plenty of news outlets are surviving (and thriving) by offering free news. What Murdoch and company hasn’t figured out is that the business model is changing, and that if they don’t change, they will die. And they will have been the source of their own demise.

3 Comments

  1. From Magnus Nilsson at 9:41 am on December 2, 2009

    I completely disagree with article. If you have a simple way to pay, people will pay for things they value. This could be a car but it could also be an article in the New York Times. Google engineers are no different than the engineers of the atomic bomb. Extremely bright people applying their minds to a problem. The problem, though, is that they are legitimizing theft of Intellectual property. There used to be an expression relating to copyright – fair use. That term has no meaning to the Google crowd, it is all about selling ads under the disguise of do no evil. All well functioning societies are based on the respect for ownership.
    So, Google start sharing the revenue you make and do it quickly, or someone else will.

  2. From tom at 10:33 am on December 2, 2009

    Your argument seems to hinge on page rank which has been effectively dead for about two years
    http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/020960.html
    As for indexing I’d assume that spiders would still index subscription content, with these pages being available for previewed with access through a pay-gate.

  3. From Randall at 1:01 am on December 5, 2009

    “Theft”? Google crawls the web and enables search. If someone searches for an article that happens to be found on NYPOST, Google’s search engine will dutifully point the searcher to the nypost.com web site, where it can be read by anyone who chooses to expose himself to Murdoch’s advertisements. How is this even remotely akin to theft?

    If Murdoch doesn’t want Google to index his papers, all he has to do is include a robots.txt file.