News Corp's CEO Bizarre Obsession With Made Up Lies About Google

from the stop-drinking-the-koolaid dept

Last year we wrote about News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson’s weird anti-Google rant that seemed quite devoid of facts. It was a odd amalgamation of conspiracy theory and outright falsehoods that fit more in the realm of an angry internet troll, rather than the CEO of a media conglomerate. Apparently, Thomson has continued to let these beliefs fester and has once again gone off on Google and other companies much more successful on the internet in a confused and rambling speech in Australia. The talk, focused on the future of the media industry, starts off with a philosophical discussion about China before jumping into an attack on the internet, which begins mildly enough with some digs at internet companies:

Media companies, too, are looking for their bearings. Here we are in the age of the GPS, of relentless, endless tracking and precisely precise data, and yet some in media are wandering aimlessly, dazed and confused, without coordinates and slouching towards oblivion. We are living in the decade of content distribution, which is not necessarily good for the act of creation. For journalists and newspapers are creationists, not in the biblical sense, but in the creative sense ? I am fortunate to be a custodian in a company that invests in thousands of creative acts around the world each day, great journalism, compelling analysis, feisty blogs, captivating videos and brilliant books, fiction and non-fiction. The question for this creationist is whether my views are anti-evolutionary or anti e-evolution ? already a bit backward and sliding ever more so.

For the distributionists do indeed have powerful distribution channels, Google and Facebook, and pretenders like LinkedIn, which is spam central. None of them actually create content, and they certainly have little intention of paying for it, but they do redistribute the content created by others ? they would argue that such redistribution is a natural extension of their role as social networks. I would argue that much of the redistribution is an unnatural act. But there are broader issues that are still unfolding for media companies, who are themselves struggling to profit from their news and other content, while the distributionists are helping themselves to that content, coopting and corralling audiences and consciously devaluing brands. The supposed idealism of these companies is in stark contrast to their actual behavior. That Google?s newly conceived parent company is to be called Alphabet has itself created a range of delicious permutations: A is for Avarice, B is for Bowdlerize, through to K for Kleptocracy, P for Piracy and Z for Zealotry.

Of course, this gets pretty much everything wrong. They’re not distributors, they tend to be marketing vehicles. And there are all sorts of things that are just silly about this. After all, News Corp. itself has a rather long history of building or buying its own aggregation tools that tend to be a lot more aggressive than the Googles or Facebooks of the world. Oh, but nearly all of News Corp.’s attempts have flopped.

The reality, it seems, is that Thomson is jealous that Google and Facebook have succeeded in building services that people find useful, whereas News Corp. has failed. So he lashes out claiming that they’re “pirating” or “stealing” content, and “redistributing” it. But that’s not what’s happening at all. Google is a search engine, it’s helping people find more content. And, as a recent study in Spain showed, when Google News pulled out it harmed the news industry, rather than helped it. It took away traffic and hurt ad revenue.

What kind of person slams a company that increases his company’s revenue and increases his company’s visibility?

Apparently, the chief exec of News Corp., Robert Thomson.

All of this seems to stem from a simple bit of (willful?) misunderstanding. Thomson keeps claiming that Google and Facebook are somehow “distributing” News Corp. content. But they’re not. They’re helping people promote it or find it. And they’re very successful at doing so, and that’s the real problem. Thomson is jealous of their success.

It should be reassuring for news organisations that the distributors have suddenly started to realize that the quality of content is important, particularly as they try to build walled gardens ? though it should be noted that the Chinese discovered that even a Great Wall didn?t work. The spammers at LinkedIn discovered that CVs are only burnished occasionally and anyone who tweaks their CV a few times a week is probably not worth hiring. Anyway, they now see themselves as a news distributor, and news organizations who cozy up too closely to them are guilty of techno trendiness. It is patently important to be aware of the trends but a grievous sin to be too trendy.

Whatever you might think of Linkedin or its recent strong push into being a content platform, this seems like a weirdly inappropriate insult for a major media company boss to be making. First of all, I think most hiring managers would strongly disagree with Thomson’s suggestion that Linkedin isn’t useful as a tool for hiring people. These days it’s one of the first places people go. Is Thomson so out of touch that he doesn’t realize this?

And we are entering a new phase of development by the big distribution networks, a phase in which they are not only appropriating content but deciding what content is appropriate and inappropriate. They are appointing editors not to create but to curate. And these curators tend to have a certain mindset, a deep fondness for political correctness, and a tendency to be intolerant of ideological infractions. Silicon Valley is moving from the PC to being a purveyor of the PC.

Huh? First off, anyone looking at this with any sense of reality would note that News Corp. has a much longer history of acting as a gatekeeper, greatly limiting what content it feels is “appropriate” for people to see. Google and Facebook are quite different, opening up a much broader sense of content to the world. Are there reasonable concerns about algorithms choosing what content you see and things like a “filter bubble”? Sure. Absolutely. But comparing that to News Corp. of all places doesn’t make News Corp. look very good. Remember, this is the same company who turned the tag line “fair & balanced” into a punchline. For the CEO of that company to argue that Google and Facebook are somehow curating content in one direction is… well… ironic.

Of course, what it really comes down to is the fact that Thomson doesn’t like the political sensibilities of the people who run these tech companies:

This transition is already underway. The stream of content is often a flow of soft-left sensibility, a stream of content consciousness in which genuine debate is in danger of drowning and alternative views rarely surface. This profound movement is taking place, and without much serious discussion of the social consequences.

Newspapers have always been a little unruly, but they are characterised by public debate, wrangling, haggling, arguing, sometimes passionately about issues and consequences, about the impact on societies and on people. The philosophy, the point of great newspapers is clear. But now we have the exponential growth of purportedly neutral platforms built by e-elites that will be far from neutral, far from objective, succumbing to a stultifyingly samey subjectivity and sensibility.

Again, remember that this is all coming from News Corp.. If he really feels this way, why not just build a competing platform that has News Corp.s’ political “sensibilities.” After all, isn’t that what the company did with Fox News? Why not do that online and see how it works? That’s what’s nice about the internet. Anyone can build anything and see if it works.

After some more whining about how those darn “lefties” are running Silicon Valley, he goes back to attacking Google over “intellectual property” issues that he doesn’t seem to understand.

More relevant to our discussion is the digital divot; the deficit in reporting resources created by the egregious aggregation of news by distributors for whom provenance is an inconvenience and who are contemptuous of copyright. The words Intellectual Property don?t appear in the Google alphabet. Without proper recognition, without proper remuneration, well-resourced reporting will be ever more challenged. When I arrived in Beijing, many a US newspaper had China correspondents ? now some of those papers no longer exist in printed form.

Mismanagement played a role, as did journalistic hubris, but the digital age has been hostile to investment in reporters and reporting. Why pay professionals when you have UGC, user-generated content? And why pay when you can purloin?

Except, again, none of that is accurate. Google, for one, seems to bend over backwards going above and beyond what’s required by law to appease Hollywood and firms like News Corp., only to find them still wanting more or plotting against Google. And, it’s funny that this speech comes the very same week that Comcast plowed $200 million into Vox Media at a $1 billion valuation and Buzzfeed’s financials leaked showing a healthy, growing business that’s investing heavily in editorial.

In other words: it appears that online reporting is actually doing pretty damn well in certain areas — just not those where News Corp. is acting — once again highlighting the company’s long history of driving internet properties into the ground.

Also, we’ll mention (yet again) the study in Spain, noting that Google was helping news publishers make more money and get a larger audience by promoting stories for free. It takes quite a bit of confusion to spin that as being “hostile to investment in reporters and investing.”

It’s just factually wrong.

If this is the visionary running News Corp. and planning for its future, it seems like News Corp. is heading in the wrong direction.

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Companies: facebook, google, linkedin, news corp

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Comments on “News Corp's CEO Bizarre Obsession With Made Up Lies About Google”

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41 Comments
Whoever says:

What Fox is really complaining about

The problem for Fox is that Google not only helps people find Fox’s content, but also the content of Fox’s competitors. What Google does is increase the total number of people reading news items, but, crucially, spreads those readers around a wider array of content providers.

Without Google, people would get their news from a small number of well known websites. Fox presumes that it would be one of these. Fox wants to control the message and Google gets in the way of this control.

Shockingly, with Google, people can more easily see the bias in Fox’s news reporting. That’s a problem for Fox, who might lose readers because of it.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

None of them actually create content, and they certainly have little intention of paying for it,

True. But they’re not claiming to be content creators, so why is this being said like some sort of accusation?

but they do redistribute the content created by others – they would argue that such redistribution is a natural extension of their role as social networks.

Also true.

I would argue that much of the redistribution is an unnatural act.

…and here’s where the streak of getting things right breaks. There are few things more natural, from early childhood to the end of one’s life, than the enthusiastic urge to share one’s interests with others. What’s unnatural (in the neutral, non-pejorative sense of the word: it’s an artificial creation that goes against the way of nature) is the attempt to put in place systems that restrict such impulses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually, Robert Thompson is sounding like someone who used to be smart, but now is dumb. So he can sound smart, because he learned sounding smart a long time ago. But anything he has learned recently he cannot process properly, so he says dumb things. He talks smart, but the thinking behind it is dumb. Early-onset Alzheimer’s, maybe?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Which is exactly what people said about Rebecca Brooks and the voicemail hacking scandal.

Rupert Murdock was prepared to lose a multi-BILLION dollars business for her, which leads to the question:

Just how filthy in bed IS she that he’d risk everything?
That woman must be extremely flexible when she’s borking 80yr old men….

That One Guy (profile) says:

Those who refuse to learn from history, are destined to look like fools and chumps repeating it

The words Intellectual Property don’t appear in the Google alphabet. Without proper recognition, without proper remuneration, well-resourced reporting will be ever more challenged.

Translation: If they’re going to show our stuff and provide links to it, they need to pay us for the privilege of doing so.

Seems to me the primary complaint is that he, just like other short-sighted fools, is whining about wanting a snippet tax, to be paid when sites like Google show excerpts. Apparently, just like any good traditional reporter, he decided to not do his research before spouting off, otherwise he’d see just how well such greed has gone over in the past.

Zengief says:

In a earlier time...

Lets imagine both of these companies in a pre-internet era. Google would be making this machine, and News Corp. would be selling newspapers.
News Corp. would still get the payment for each paper and the advertising dollars inside and Google would be able to make their money by slipping in a flyer in each box. However, in this world, instead of purchasing the vending machines from Google, News Corp. would instead demand that Google create the machine, stock the machine, and pay News Corp. to have the privilege of selling their paper. Because those vending machines are dirty thieves that allow people to see a headline without purchasing the paper.

Anonymous Coward says:

seems to me that, as part of the entertainment industries, this section has to ‘toe the party line’ and do as much as it can to persuade everyone who uses the industries to help them stay in the pre-digital age. the music business is doing it, the movie business is doing it, so why not this section? it doesn’t matter that it’s totally wrong but think for a minute who is in overall top position and match the ages with the studio heads. they all fell out of the same mold, i think!

Anonymous Coward says:

Long vitriolic rant by Google flack. Not just advertising income: take the Copia link and see his sponsors.

First, where’s YOUR statement of that direct connection to topic corporation? A journalist would state that conflict of interest. This is paid flackage.

Now, relevant is the Meltwater decision on scraping headlines: gains most of the value for free, and was not permitted.

In Spain: Google decided to make an example and punish the whole country rather than be effectively taxed a tiny amount.

Then there’s the squawk Google made in British Columbia over being held to a court order.

And recently mentioned right here at TD, Google was helping the CIA selectively control access against the US Senate.

Snowden said Google gives NSA “direct access”. Never refuted, let alone investigated, just a couple verbal denials.

Google keeps most of its income offshore away from taxes, especially US, with various “legal” dodges. Google has no intention of being a good corporate citizen.

Google clearly regards itself as above the law, and will use its power as can. One of biggest lobbying efforts in Washington DC. A pal with Obama.

Google has easily-gotten billions to splash out for favorable opinion! Even reaching a tiny little “think tank”.

Oh, and almost passed because so frequent here: he has not proven a single statement by Thomsom to be a lie, only hurled a bunch of pejoratives.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Long vitriolic rant by Google flack. Not just advertising income: take the Copia link and see his sponsors.

A Google flack whom not coincidentally blocks home IP of a Google critic so that has to use TOR.

Long on chutzpah, short on morality, so doesn’t at all see a conflict of interest and that should at least state his coonection to Google.

Monday (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Back on your meds you

You beat me to the punch you…

I was interchanging Trump with Thomson, and it seems to work well. Swap out Google and Facebook with Mexicans and Immigrants, and it just as sideways a rant as one can get. This guy definitely forgot to take his Stelazine for the few days of delusions it took to write this “speech”.

Back in the day, when I first truly appreciated and understood what ‘Aggregator’ meant, I became truly impressed by the thankless job that Google or Bing has undertaken. And, like you said Masnick, they do a damn fine job at it.

Howard the Duck says:

Re: Re: If you leave the troll's subject line intact, you deserve to be reported

Why report him? He has a different viewpoint. I see that all the time here on the TechDirt comments. Are we open minded? No. Are we judgmental? Yes. Leave the comments as they are. Let the ranters rant, and the trolls troll.

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: If you leave the troll's subject line intact, you deserve to be reported

He has a different viewpoint.

Well, that would be the understatement of the year.

Regardless, it’s not that he has a different viewpoint, but that he has an agenda which is to disrupt any kind of meaningful conversation. Hell, he even admits it in many (most?) of his posts. His motive is to derail any sensible conversation and he never adds anything of value. It’s mostly strawmen and ad homs.

Every time you respond to him, you are doing exactly what he wants.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Long vitriolic rant by Google flack. Not just advertising income: take the Copia link and see his sponsors.

“Now, relevant is the Meltwater decision on scraping headlines: gains most of the value for free, and was not permitted.”

Your whole diatribe reads like pigeon English. Get a grip, I can almost see the spittle spewing forth from your pie hole as you type these missives, yelling at the top of your lungs, “damn you Google and damn you too Mike Masnick.”

Anonymous Coward says:

There,s 4 or 5 companys that own 90 per cent of american tv and radio stations .
Certain older ceo,s dont like the web or tech companys ,
because they work on merit and providing users with a good service .
An theres constant competition from youtube ,facebook etc
The audience will move on if you don,t not keep on innovating .
He sounds like the ceos of the music companys
who prefered to sue everyone or just ignore the web ,
until napster came along ,
and apple showed them how to provide a real music service .
Perhaps if you know little about a subject the web or how search engines work,
its best to be silent rather than show your ignorance.
Even the music companys have wised up,
make your ip avaidable to everyone,
stream music, put music video,s on youtube ,
monetise it thru advertising or gaining subscribers .
build a platform , users will pay for it or watch, listen to ads .
It,s strange to have a ceo of a major international media company
who seems to have little understanding of how tech works .

T Stern says:

Perhaps News Corp has a future as part of the Alphabet group

Perhaps that should worry clowns like Thompson,perhaps not, but as far as I can see, all the content Google pushes belongs to NC, so perhaps Larry & Sergey should just buy them. Google is seen to be supporting great journalism, and perhaps gets some good press.

The only risk is that the cancer at NC turns Google into Myspace.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Why is the CEO of a major corporation throwing a tantrum?

If he really wanted people to take him and his company seriously, maybe he shouldn’t be acting like a spoiled 5-year old after losing a game. Google and Facebook, regardless of what you may personally think of their products and policies, are hugely successful companies. So, seeing these new upstarts muscling on on big media’s historic territory, what does Thomson do? Does he attempt to figure out how to make a better service to out-compete? No, he whines and rants and curses, then wonders why people stop listening to him, and more and more of his customers turn to other options. He is a joke.

Side note: What’s with his obsession with LinkedIn? Is he cyber-stalking more successful CEOs or something, wallowing in envy?

Anonymous Coward says:

Must remember that News Corp is the one that runs the Sun newspaper in the UK.

The same Sun that has previously claimed (via the front page) that Elvis was alive on the moon and a few years later that they were running a competition to WIN Elvis’s skeleton.

Then because they total and utter scum, they tried to pretend those stories were run by a different (joke) paper called the Daily Sport. (and even created poorly photoshopped images to try to support this).

Oh yeah and Rupert Murdoch ordered the voicemails of the parents of a murdered child to be hacked so they could plant messages indicating the child was alive, to drum up a story when the parents (naturally) went into a panic.

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

What's with the dig at LinkedIn?

I was a bit surprised at the dig at LinkedIn, “[…]and pretenders like LinkedIn, which is spam central.” Does News Corp. have an interest in CareerBuilder, Monster, or some other ‘past tense’ job board? Given the history of people getting burned for ‘doctored resumes’, maybe Mr. Robert Thomson is trying to throw shade on something that can shine a very large spotlight on him or those under in his employ?

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