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Murdoch may ban Googlebot

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Tuesday November 10, 2009 )

Media baron Rupert Murdoch doesn’t seem to like Google. That may be somewhat of an understatement.

Earlier this year Mr. Murdoch accused Google of stealing content it doesn’t own and urged media outlets to fight back. “Should we be allowing Google to steal all our copyrights? Thanks, but no thanks.”

Rupert plans to have people pay for access to premium online content and may also ban the bot – the most powerful bot of all – Google’s spider that indexes pages for inclusion in its search engine.

According to a recent interview:

“I think we will [remove our websites from Google’s search index] but that’s when we start charging”

I remember these “ban the bot” crusades back in the days of Google’s monthly updates – but never did the cry come from someone so powerful.

Mr. Murdoch is by no means a stupid man. Even the paid content angle *could* work if enough media giants work together and offer a common, cheap subscription (like some adult sites do) – but to ban Google from their sites altogether? That is a big move to be snubbing your nose at free traffic, even if you don’t particularly like the source. His papers need traffic to justify the prices to advertisers.

The paid content strategy also seems to have hit a few challenges – Mr Murdoch warned that his plans to start charging for content by end of next June could now be delayed.

While many people are laughing at the paid content move – consider this: If Mr Murdoch locks up his content and many of the other big players join him; people who subscribe will still write about the stories published on his and their properties. Links will lead to a page that will say something like “subscribe now for full access.” It’s already happening and has been for a while – those publications seem to do ok.

Another issue that may occur is these participating publications could wind up having huge plagiarism task forces – chasing publishers/bloggers who write “too much” about premium content stories. No doubt it will be a fine line.

Interesting times ahead.


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