Dear Rupert: You Don't Succeed By Making Life More Difficult For Users

from the this-will-not-work dept

Well, look at that. Last week it was just a silly suggestion from some netheads, and now come reports that Rupert Murdoch is at least in the early stages of considering opting out of Google, with Microsoft paying it to be "exclusive" on Bing. Apparently, Microsoft has actually approached a few publications about doing similar deals. It's no surprise that Microsoft and Murdoch would explore this. Microsoft has experimented for years with programs to bribe people to use its search engine over Google's -- but it hasn't done much to help. Meanwhile, Murdoch continues to not actually understand how the internet or copyright law works, and has some oddly misplaced dislike for Google (despite the fact that Google alone is pretty much what kept Murdoch-owned MySpace alive for years, and Murdoch owns a bunch of sites that aggregate info just like Google).

Still, if this does go forward, it will signal incredibly short-sighted thinking on the parts of everyone who participates. The initial reaction would be significantly less traffic to any site that agrees to participate, considering that Google still drives a ton of traffic to most major sites. Simply giving that up for a chunk of cash is a very risky proposition. Second, in factionalizing the web, it harms everyone. No one wants to have to think about which sites are included in which search engine, and if the battle begins in earnest, then you have a situation where you end up in an inevitable stalemate, with certain sites in Google's search engine, but not in Microsoft's, and others in just Microsoft's but not Google's -- and no one wins. Third, the cost of this program to a company like Microsoft to make it meaningful is huge. It's much bigger than the numbers that were being tossed out before. Finally, all this would really do is open up new opportunities for one of three things (or a combination) to happen (1) a new meta search engine shows up that aggregates both Microsoft and Google results (2) technology hacks that will allow you to combine the two results in one or (3) Google realizes that it has copyright law fair use on its site and keeps indexing sites anyways. I'm not sure Google would take that last step, but if things go nuclear, it might make the most sense.

But the key thing is that none of this does anything to help users. And that's the problem. It's not adding even the tiniest sliver of additional benefit to users. And these days, that's a strategic error. If your business is focused on making life more difficult for a competitor, rather than adding more value to users, you're doing the wrong thing. Microsoft and News Corp. should be trying to provide more value to users, and instead, they seem to be plotting ways to make consumers' lives more annoying and more difficult. They may think that's smart, but in the long term, such strategies always backfire.

Filed Under: bribes, search
Companies: microsoft, news corp.


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  1. icon
    MediaLibMan (profile), 23 Nov 2009 @ 7:12pm

    You're missing the point..

    I think you are all missing the point. Rupert's proper contention is that folks who are driven to News Corps. properties from Google (and all non economic-niche external sources really) are simply not worth the money. They typically do not stay on the site for very long (maybe an article), they are not the type that pay for subscriptions, and they are likely more diverse then the narrow demographics advertisers seek (think Fox News). Rupert does not care if "information wants to be free" or about CPM's. In fact, he would just assume the "parasites" went away.

    He would rather run a lean profitable operation (with less reporters) - digital or print - where a few really loyal folks pay for the content, and advertisers know essentially who they are marketing to. Marketers are willing to pay a premium for the Fox News crowd, or hell even the very different Fox broadcast channel crowd, just as long as they are loyal (think NASCAR). Rupert views himself as a prophet that will lead the news industry into salvation, or at least off life-support.

    Now, I personally do not think it is a good strategy long-term. For starters, while niche information like WSJ works because people use the info. to make money, I am not certain the same will hold true for general news. I also don't know that the demographics that work in the above instances (e.g., white, middle-class, conservative; older for Fox News and young-liberal for Fox channel) translate to the online environment.

    I think Rupert would be better served by providing his information for free, and innovating with a series of value-added services, such as live-discussions with NASCAR champ, Jimmy Johnson or widgets to search for hard-to-get-to public information that bring better context to stories. Then again, Mr. Murdoch has never been about facts, so even if he stuck to some exclusive entertainment content he might be able to get the following. Speaking of entertainment (sit-com really), I wonder if Glenn Beck would support a forum on the New York Post?

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