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Murdoch’s Toll Booth in the Sea

Rupert Murdoch would have us all believe that “paying for content online is right and that aggregators like Google that use newspaper content but don’t pay for it are doing something wrong.” (BBC article). And he’s actually got a level of support behind him…from the traditional print media that is.

Johnson Press, the UK’s largest regional newspaper publisher has recently moved to start charging for its online content. The challenge they both face is Google and other news aggregators that are able to bypass the subscription page and direct readers straight to the article for free.

News Corp appears to have stepped forward in the battle this week by gaining agreement from Google to limit the amount of free clicks to news stories it offers to five per searcher. While this approach has many of its own problems it also begs the question; won’t users just go elsewhere to get free news?

The first place you’d think of is Bing – Microsoft’s new improved search engine – well, so did Murdoch. Or at least he used Bing as leverage to broker the deal with Google. Having said that, at UKFast we work very closely with Microsoft on the hosting side and from what our contacts tell us, the Bing team have been incredibly busy meeting with News Corp and it seems that genuine offers are on the table.

Would it really be worthwhile for Murdoch to ban Google from its news completely and give Bing the sole rights? And would Microsoft be willing to pay large sums for this?  The big question is, how much effect would this have anyway? Isn’t trying to stop people finding information online like trying to charge people for swimming through the open seas?

Withstanding the search engine debate, we should also look at how 2009 has changed the way we gain our information online. Alex Bellinger of the Small Biz Pod believes that; “Increasing numbers of people aren’t searching for news anymore, the news is coming to them in the form of recommendations from their social networks.”

Facebook and Twitter are two incredibly influential online entities that help news to travel fast. Ironically, the one social networking site that hasn’t maintained its growth pattern since being acquired by big business is MySpace. Who owns that again – is it someone that understands the internet and users habits?

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