With Rupert Murdoch's recent talk about removing his sites from Google
, some said that if you understood his comments in context, he was really talking more about copying the WSJ's "leaky" paywall strategy -- which lets users see full articles if they visit via Google. Of course, in that very interview, he appeared to not know how that leaky paywall works, claiming that it took people to a landing page with a couple of paragraphs rather than the full story. That's not true. It does that if you're linked from most other sites. But people who come via Google (or, I believe, Digg) get the full story automatically. The idea, from SEO experts, was to actually help Google drive more traffic.
Of course, that was before Murdoch suddenly decided that all this free promotion was "parasiting" his works (despite the fact that many of his own properties do the same thing
. However, it looks like News Corp. may actually be considering ending the "leaky" part of its paywall, with the company's COO, Chase Carey, saying that the idea makes no sense
"I don't think it makes sense... We don't want people going though a backdoor, or other channels..."
And now we learn how little the folks at News Corp. seem to understand the internet and the fundamental way that people want to interact with news these days. It's not just about sitting and receiving the end product. It's about being a part of the process -- and that includes sharing and spreading the news -- for free -- to others. Mark Cuban thinks (incorrectly, in my opinion) that Murdoch understands the value
of people passing around links, which is why he says he wants to opt-out of Google (because search traffic isn't as valuable as traffic from Twitter or Facebook). But locking up all that content actually harms that viral-link value. People aren't going to share or spread a link if they know others can't use it. For years, for example, we've used those "backdoors" (i.e., Google News) which Carey bemoans to read stories in the WSJ that we post here. If they stop allowing that, then I won't read the WSJ any more, and the community of readers and commenters here will never hear from the WSJ again. It's difficult to see how that's a better option.
Amusingly, the first time that we ever wrote about this growing concept that people today want to "spread the news" and "share the news" more than they just want to receive the news was about five years ago -- before the WSJ had put up its leaky paywall. The point of that post was to note just how far the WSJ had fallen out of the conversation
on news media -- since no one could send around a link to discuss things. Putting those "backdoors" into the paywall, at the very least, brought the WSJ somewhat back into the conversation. Blocking it now would make the Journal irrelevant again. It's difficult to see how that's a smart strategy at all.