Two pieces of news from the Murdoch empire:
1. New York Post circulation continues its downward death spiral.
Nearly every paper in America has lost circulation, but The Post more than most — down almost 30 percent in 2.5 years, to 508,000 in the most recent reporting period, against 544,000 for The Daily News. The slide accelerated after The Post’s price returned to 50 cents last year. And this year, The Daily News has surged far ahead in online readership.
[New York Post editor] Mr. Allan, who called it “a joyous occasion” when The Post took the lead, now takes a more subdued view of the competition, saying in an e-mail exchange that “whether we are a little in front or a little behind has no impact on our forward business plan.”
2. Rupert Murdoch suggests he will remove News Corp. websites from Google and other search engines. At least, that’s what the headlines are blaring. Are they jumping the gun? I think so.
If you listen to the first five minutes of Murdoch’s interview with Sky News political editor David Speers, you hear the following:
- Speers delivers a classic and very public introductory suck-up, referring to his interview subject (and big-time boss) as “the world’s most powerful media owner.”
- Rupert Murdoch says users should not have had free content, that “we’ve been asleep.” He sees the paywall as long overdue, but says we’ll be surprised by how minimal some of the fees will be.
- He wants a different kind of audience – not drive-by consumers but loyal and engaged users with high-frequency habits. Or, at least, users who will open their wallets.
“What’s the point of having someone come occasionally, who likes a headline they see in Google?… The fact is, there’s not enough advertising in the world to go around to make all the websites profitable. We’d rather have fewer people coming to our website, but paying.”
- At this point, Speers raises the Google index question. When he asks Murdoch why he hasn’t removed News Corp. sites from Google’s search index, Murdoch replies “Well, I think we will. But that’s when we start charging…”
BUT Murdoch doesn’t stop there. He goes on, indicating that perhaps he didn’t fully understand Speers’ question. They clearly were not communicating on the same, uh, Google wavelength.
“…We do it already with the Wall Street Journal. We have a wall but it’s not right to the ceiling. You can get usually the first paragraph of any story, but then if you’re not a paying subscriber of wsj.com there’s immediately… a paragraph and a subscription form.”
Does that sound like he doesn’t want News Corp. content to appear in Google or Microsoft search results? Nope.
Speers follows up, asking if this is the model we should expect to see. Murdoch’s clear as mud answer: “Maybe, maybe.” He mumbles something about the Fair Use Doctrine and taking it slowly.
So all those headlines shouting about Murdoch pulling his sites out of Google? Not quite accurate.
When you take another look at the comment from New York Post editor Col Allan, it all starts to make a bit of sense: “…whether we are a little in front or a little behind has no impact on our forward business plan.”
It seems Rupert Murdoch is saying size doesn’t matter. It’s quality of audience, not quantity. The only quantity he wants is the dollars from subscribers, in both micro and macro payments. Perhaps he’d rather build audiences that are meaningful, loyal and consistent because these are audiences that can be sold and targeted to an advertiser.
Will he pull all of his sites out of Google? I doubt it. When he refers to “content kleptomaniacs” I’d venture he means not the initial link, but the pay-off link to the full story that is currently not providing a pay-out to the content creator or publisher.
Rupert Murdoch is bold and brash. He is not stupid. He is approaching the digital news problem the same way he approached his move into television: just because this is the way it’s being done doesn’t mean it’s the way it has to be done.
Remember when ABC, NBC and CBS were the only three networks? Remember when CNN and MSNBC were the only dominant news players on cable?
I worked at Fox while Rupert Murdoch was transforming it. I remember when he announced he was going to start a new cable news channel. I walked through that studio as it was being built. Murdoch is a challenger, even when the status has barely reached the quo. I’m not counting him out just yet, and neither should you.
Watch the first five minutes of his interview with David Speers and you’ll see what I mean.