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Newspapers, eReaders and the Great News Corp Swindle

February 20, 2010 | Comments Off

News Corp SwindleNewspapers as we know them seem to be on their last leg. And Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has a big stake in newspapers (they own several newspapers around the world, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post). Apparently Mr. Murdoch thinks the Internet is to blame for newspapers’ demise, and he set out to stop it – by stopping Google from indexing his newspapers’ Websites.

Hmmm, that’s probably not the best move by an old media company trying to compete in the digital age. Oh well, they aren’t my sites – but I would like to see how much their Web traffic drops once they block Google.

If It Works With….

The rational for blocking Google is that they would be able to entice searchers to pay for the stories they once got for free.  In addition, News Corp. isn’t too happy about being included in Google’s News pages without any payment (note to Google News: feel free to include any pages from this blog, and for free!).

News Corp.’s Wall Street Journal online edition is set up similar to this – a user who enters the site will have to subscribe to see  many of the full stories. In my opinion, however, the Wall Street Journal has the unique content, trust and brand reputation to make user subscriptions work – for now.

The fact is that we are at a turning point for newspapers and publishing. The average daily newspaper takes a workforce of thousands to run – but the average daily blog can be run by a few. The problem with these large publications is their overhead and the fact they still print, which also runs up their cost of doing business. Newspaper publishers like News Corp. need to embrace the Web, search engines and digital publishing, letting go of their old-school print editions.

Counting On eReaders To Save Newspapers

However, you don’t hear Murdoch pushing plans to cut out print editions and just publish online. His strategy seems to be getting people to subscribe digitally via the Web or on eReader devices. Note that News Corp. isn’t the only large media company that’s going this route – much of the industry is talking about it, and the New York Times announced a paid-model for 2011.

Murdoch is quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying that without eReaders, “newspapers will go out of business.”  He’s actually been talking about an eReader/Tablet device that will save all of News Corp.’s print publications for a few years and just inked a deal with Sony for some exclusive editions for the Sony Reader.

I’m all for these types of partnerships – I think we’ll begin to see better content produced that uses technologies that aren’t even available in eReaders yet. However, I fail to see the benefits of News Corp. blocking Google from their sites.  Newspaper publishers need to think beyond just a “digital version of their printed paper”. They need to start thinking in terms of digital-only, because this is where the future is leading them. Digital newspapers won’t be print’s ugly cousin – it will be the other way around.

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