Australia bows out of media

Australian media bows out to Google…

Tough question but do we even need Google? The one topic that continues to be discussed in business and publisher circles has returned to centre stage with the recent public tantrums from News Corp that they plan to block Google.

In September I blogged about how publishers appear to be flipping out over how little control they have over their online content with Google News.  News Corp has made a very public announcement that it would be moving towards a pay model by June 2010 to claw back falling advertiser revenue but without Google.

The interesting aspect to this standoff is that unlike many other publishers News Corp does have a competitive advantage due to the worldwide network of websites, dominance in the media and established offline promotion channels.  If any media company maybe able to survive without traffic from Google it should be News Corporation.

To give you an understanding of the scale of News Corp’s gamble according to Google Ad Planner from the network of 54 websites each month News Corp receive around 11.28 million unique visitors, served around 846,000,000 page views and reached around 65% of all Australians. So how serious are News Corp in the future of their digital media strategy as according to HitWise, Google delivers around 25% of the visitors to

To cloud the issue as to when News Corp will switch to pure pay-per-view will eventually happen, it now seems to be accepted by Rupert Murdoch that News Corp may struggle to reach the June 2010 deadline he imposed so what’s the rush to block Google?

News Corp has apparently placed its trust in social media as a future source of visitors but HitWise advise that currently Facebook/Twitter only deliver around 4% of visitor traffic.  A likely issue is that compared to other news websites News Corp is not even fully prepared for social media by enabling easy sharing of news stories for all popular platforms such as Twitter.

I look at TechCrunch as an example of a media site that understands the benefits of making it easy to share their content via social media.  TechCrunch offers Facebook connect for user comments, trackback URLs for article referencing by bloggers and assist visitors by pre-generating a Short URL.

The public issue between News Corp and Google appears to have started over several stress points:

  • Google launch free Real Estate listing service competing with REA Group
  • Traffic drops for Myspace mean News Corp will lose millions in revenue from Google
  • Google don’t pay enough to their AdSense partners OR charge enough for content placement
  • Google News steals publishers images, story snippets and even story headlines

So if we are to believe that News Corporation is serious, why are they contributing to Google’s revenue by buying traffic using AdWords? Also a majority of the News Corp network sites depend on Google AdWords for attracting better quality targeted visitors and allows them to top up website traffic to satisfy advertisers.

There are other solutions that News Corp could explore besides throwing in the towel in its dispute with Google.  Around the world more publishers are either going head to head with Google or working to drive as much traffic from search as possible.  Brent D Payne heads up as SEO director for one of the more proactive US publishers “Tribune Interactive” who work to ensure they get as much search traffic as possible from every story.

The Tribune methodology focuses on following white-hat guidelines and working direct with the search engines:

  • Best practice seo training is run across the Tribune group
  • Continuous optimisation, measurement and improvement of content
  • Ongoing development of fresh content based on current events/breaking-news

All these steps could be easily implemented at News Corp who appear to have worked hard to build non-optimised websites, could follow Tribune Interactive’s example to vastly increase the amount of traffic leading to increased online revenue.

The BBC is also on the firing line according to Murdoch because of the source of their TV licence funding allows them to compete unfairly against News Corp.  But the BBC is one of the few media companies challenging the growth of the embedded Google YouTube player by building its own solution which it has begun providing free to other organisations.

There are two different examples of how media companies are working to ensure they remain competitive and focus on providing quality content and solutions not wasting resources in a shouting match as to who is right.  What is interesting is that News Corp web properties still have a large number of Google AdSense modules allowing them to benefit financially from Google’s AdWords business model.

As Jack Shafer points out in the past Murdoch has been the first to drive down the price of newspapers if he can get the volumes to work in his favour.  Is this a reverse strategy to try and drive up the value of his content so News Corp gets paid more be every advertisers?

The London freesheet was another failed battle ground where Murdoch started a race to the bottom by giving away his printed content with the pure advertising-supported The London Paper. So can he really play the white knight on the argument over the value of content in a fast moving digital world?

News Corp appears to be playing a game of bluff as they are not making use of Robots.txt to advise Google not to index their network of websites.

The process to be accepted into the Google News program and ensuring you stay up to date with their processes requires resources so why haven’t News Corp just requested to be removed?

I have even provided the links so there is no reason if Murdoch was serious about blocking Google why he couldn’t do it today.