Bing Tries To Buy The News
Sunday, November 22, 2009; 7:29 PM
Rupert Murdoch is pointing a gun to Google's head, and Microsoft is helping him pull back the trigger. For the past few weeks, Murdoch and his officers at News Corp. have been very vocal about their distaste for Google and their desire to lead other media companies in a boycott of sorts.
Murdoch keeps threatening to stop letting Google index the WSJ.com and his other media sites, and wants other news sites to join him in this self-imposed silence. The folks at Microsoft's Bing think this is a great idea. Not only that, but the FT reports that Microsoft is in fact in discussions with News Corp. and other publishers about the possibility of paying them to remove their sites from Google's search index. This report comes on the heels of a meeting in Europe where Bing dangled the prospect of premium spots in search results to publishers and outright money for search R&D.
Microsoft is not afraid to buy search market share, which is what it's doing with the Yahoo search deal and even its Cashback program. But with these latest talks, it is literally trying to buy the news, or at least exclusive access to the news.
Bing can't buy all the news, it can only buy certain brands. If Bing can somehow become the only place you can find news results and working links to the Wall Street Journal and other top papers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the LA Times, for instance, that would be a big reason to switch for a lot of folks. But it's not clear how much Bing would have to pay the news companies of the world for them to give up all the traffic Google sends them in return for a fraction of that traffic and some cash.
Even Google couldn't afford to strike such deals. Says Murdoch, of Google, "If they were to pay everybody for everything they took from every newspaper in the world, and every magazine, they wouldn't have any profits left."
In order to actually make a dent in Google's market share, Bing would have to pay such exorbitant sums to so many different news companies that it would be difficult to recoup its investment. Bing certainly get some marketing buzz out of any such move, but that's about it.
The big problem with a search engine trying to buy market share by buying parts of the news is that information spreads so quickly these days, exclusives last about 30 seconds. That information will end up on a site that is indexed by Google. Or the same news will be broken by someone else on the Web before the WSJ.com even gets to it.
Exclusive indexing goes against the Web's inherent openness. Companies that try to curtail that openness don't last long on the Web.