Posted November 13, 2009 10:34 am by with 10 comments

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Murdoch close upThe end of what you ask? The end of the newspaper industry? Sure, why not? That’s an easy one and we talk about that probably way too much. The end of free content? Now we’re getting warmer. Earlier this week we told of Rupert Murdoch’s master plan (or is that disastrous plan?) to remove his News Corp. content from the search engines like Google. That’s pretty big talk. Crazy talk possibly but big talk nonetheless. So do you just make that kind of threat then wait and see or do you then draw the line in the sand? You know, set a date as to when this grand gesture will occur. Well, let’s not get totally crazy or at least clear on that one. That smells too much like reality.

So what am I driving at here? It’s the continued blustering of News Corp. about pay for content models. Now, they are talking about a sort of uprising that they will lead so that all media outlets will follow.

The Telegraph reports

Jonathan Miller, News Corp’s chief digital officer, said the media mogul was ready to block Google’s access to his sites soon and that the company would lead the media industry in this direction.

“There is real tension surrounding the free versus pay debate,” Mr Miller told the Monaco Media Forum on Friday. “It will play out in the next two years. We believe that the value of high quality content is not recognised online [by giving its away for free) so something needs to happen.

“I don’t believe the media industry can continue to exist in this way.”

Soon. Well, that’s definitive. In an attempt to further clarify this threat of a pitchfork and torch uprising by the media industry Mr. Miller then gave the ominous threat of when this will all hit the fan.

When asked how long it would be before Mr Murdoch took the step to block Google, which every media company relies upon to send them high levels of web traffic, Mr Miller said it would be soon – “months and quarters – not weeks”

Pack up the plantation! They’re going to remove themselves from the search engines in a couple of months or maybe like 6 or 9 or 12 months. I don’t know. Do you? Are you worried yet?

Even Murdoch himself is back-pedaling on his own claims about when this grand gesture might / may take place.

Last week Mr Murdoch warned that his plans to charge for access to content across all of his newspaper sites, by the end of next June, could now be delayed.

During a conference call to discuss News Corp first quarter financial results, the media magnate said he couldn’t promise to meet his own deadline – but did say it remained a work in progress and “we are all working very hard” on delivering the pay solution.

Oh for Pete’s sake! This is sounding more and more like the ramblings of a mad man than anything else. Why would you rile up the biggest boon to traffic that any news site has then be wishy-washy on the details and even throw into doubt if they have the nerve or, even worse, the backing of the rest of the media industry to pull this off? Also, in all of this talk they are confusing people about pay walls and search engine access. Will that happen together? Are they all part of the same plan?

Here’s the final piece that is interesting. News Corp. is even calling out the quality of the traffic that comes from the engines as inferior because it may be one time visitors. Excuse me? What if that one time visitor actually had never expressed real interest in your publication but through the engines landed at your site and thought “Hey, not bad. I’m gonna keep coming back.”? This quote from Miller says a lot

“The traffic which comes in from Google brings a consumer who more often than not read one article and then leaves the site. That is the least valuable of traffic to us… the economic impact [of not having content indexed by Google] is not as great as you might think. You can survive without it.”

Ok, if you can survive without it then just do it already. Well, that wouldn’t be prudent now would it.

However, Mr Miller admitted News Corporation could not make the bold step alone but was prepared to lead other media companies in this direction. “We will lead. There is a pent up need for this. There has to be a resolution for the free versus pay debate otherwise we cannot afford to pay for things like news bureaus in Kabul.”

Looks to me like this whole thing is just keeping News Corp. in the news because there may not be any real news here since there is no plan and no definition coupled with vague threats and dates of even more vague threats.

I say do it and let’s see what happens. There’s no way to predict how this will play out and some game of cat and mouse will just tick off more people than it’s worth. As Henry Rollins shouted years ago “Don’t think about it …. Do it!” Amen.