Dear Mr Murdoch,
While you’re undoubtedly rich and clever and influential, your plan to remove your news from Google’s index is just daft. If you want us to read your stories, let alone pay for them, we have to be able to find them first.
Last year more Americans got their news from the internet than newspapers. From the graph in that story, it looks like it’ll only be a few years before the internet surpasses television as well.
On the internet people — especially young people — don’t get their news in a monolith from one or two sources like a daily newspaper or nightly TV bulletin.
“The media revolution affects so many aspects of [young people’s] lives and news just happens to be one of them,” says Betsy Frank, Executive VP in charge of research at Viacom.
“They have no loyalty to media institutions like their parents did,” she says, and this won’t change as they get older.”
People now gather their news from all over the place in little pieces — using the “aggregators” you despise, search engines and, increasingly, personal recommendations from “friends” on networks like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
This is assuming they even want news to begin with.
As David Mindich, author of Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News, points out, “They are still just as thoughtful, intelligent — and I would argue — literate as ever before. What has changed is that young people no longer see a need to keep up with the news.”
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Now this morning, Mr Murdoch, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t misrepresenting your comments. Rather than watch your full 37-minute interview with Sky News Australia — deadlines, deadlines! — I wanted a news report.
I went to Google News and typed “murdoch block google”. The first result was this story at the UK’s Telegraph.
I went to Microsoft’s Bing and typed the same thing. Their top link was this story at the Guardian.
(I also searched the news at Yahoo!7 and their one and only result was a Crikey story from a month ago. Fail.)
I clicked through and read their stories — you don’t see full stories in search engines, Mr Murdoch, you have to click through. I saw their adverts. They got traffic.
Do you own the Telegraph or the Guardian, Mr Murdoch?
There are many reasons the Telegraph and Guardian stories may have ranked higher in Google’s search results, but the key one is how many people linked to those stories. Google treats a link as a recommendation. A vote for relevance.
People don’t link to stories behind a paywall, so they’re inevitably ranked lower.
If you ask Google not to index your stories, they won’t be discovered at all.
As Google’s spokesman told the Telegraph, “Google News and web search are a tremendous source of promotion for news organisations, sending them about 100,000 clicks every minute.”
“Publishers put their content on the web because they want it to be found, so very few choose not to include their material in Google News and web search. But if they tell us not to include it, we don’t.”
I’m worried on behalf of your shareholders, Mr Murdoch.
If you don’t know how the internet works as a news medium — and if you don’t even know how your own news sites work, as the Guardian story pointed out when you stuffed up the description of the WSJ.com paywall — they’re screwed.