I am not sure if you can put a price on stupidity or not; but I am pretty sure that if you could weasel out of Steve Ballmer how much this possible getting into bed with the newspaper giants is going to cost you’d have a pretty good idea.
When the news broke late yesterday it quickly became the topic of choice for just about all the tech pundits out there. Even Duncan here at The Inquisitr has his say about the idea but while I wouldn’t go to the extreme of suggesting a boycott of Microsoft or Bing I will say that if this is indeed true this has to be the dumbest idea on so many levels that my neck hurts from shaking my head so much.
To understand just how stupid this inane idea is we need to look at all the players involved in a debacle just waiting to happen.
The short end of this is that no agreement between Microsoft with News Corp, or any number of news organizations that are stupid enough to go this route, is going to have any longterm detrimental effects on Google.
When it comes to Google it has built its fortune around the Long Tail of the Web, not against the fluctuation of an ever decreasing time frame, or value, of the “news” cycle. The search giant knows that it is extremely hard to sell advertising against information that loses its relevancy almost as soon as it is posted.
Its recent rumblings within the real-time web isn’t so much as living up to their ethos of indexing all the information on the Internet as much as it is about not letting Microsoft have all the marbles in the playground. Unlike any deals being cut with newspapers; so that they can continue to prop up an industry in severe trouble, making deals with real-time web services is more of where the web is heading and as such it makes sense to Google to be in that space.
As Kent Newsome, along with a bunch of other smart folks, points out people are forgetting the power of the verb and human being’s general apathy and inertia.
Here’s the thing: people are going to use Google, that’s why it’s a verb. If you take your content out of the Google search results, people won’t see it. Merchants go where the people are, not the other way around.
Google knows this and it also knows that what ever is published to the web will eventually make its way into its search index. Real-time or Long Tail it doesn’t matter to Google as long as they can successfully sell advertising against any and all search results.
News Corp and the other desperate Susans of the News Industry
The whole argument being put forward by Rupert Murdoch and the other news industry barons that Google; and the other minor players in the search business, are nothing but bloodsuckers destroying the news business sounds like a bunch of whiny boys threatening to take their bat and balls and go home.
As much as they carry on about the evilness of Google nobody is listening, or caring, any more. We’re all too busy reading the news on sites that are trying to understand and deal with the new way of doing business. Along with that we are reading blogs, reading our Facebook pages and following links to interesting stuff just as we are also doing on Twitter.
And this is one of the major points that the news industry seems to have failed to understand. People don’t go to Google to search for specific news organization’s latest headline. People use Google, or other search companies, to search for ALL of the news about the latest breaking event; or they go to the actual news site itself.
The idea that this is some sort of salvation that will see newspapers finally lift the veil of disaster that is hanging over them is nothing short of delusional. The delivery of news is changing and it is no longer the private fiefdom of an exclusive bunch of rich pricks who think that can buy and sell the world.
Rupert Murdoch acting as the cheerleader of this idea of search engines paying for access doesn’t give a shit about the effect long term of any deals created using this idea. He doesn’t care one iota about the journalists who still don’t know half the time on a day to day basis if they are going to have a job the next day just because Murdoch and his ilk only care about making sure their bottom line isn’t endangered.
This is all about Murdoch being able to keep maintaining control over his media empire while he is alive and he doesn’t care about the survivability of his competitors beyond his opportunity to buy them. Being able to force Internet companies like Google, and Microsoft’s Bing, to pay him the ransom he wants is only a feather in Rupert’s cap – nothing more.
First off I can totally understand why Microsoft would even consider going down this road. That said I think it could be one of the most stupidest things ever conceived of at the company under Steve Ballmer’s stewardship.
As Duncan noted in his post Microsoft has come a long way since its days of being the epitome of evil in just about everyone’s eyes. If this is actually something that Microsoft is seriously considering they could wipe out just about all the good work that has been down to revitalize the company in the public’s eyes.
This whole thing strikes me as nothing more that Microsoft having to pay protectionist money in order to not become totally inconsequential in the search market. The problem is that once Microsoft hands over that first payment they are screwed on so many levels as it is a payment that they can’t take back and will only become the first of a non-stop stream of cash flowing out to the robber barons of news.
One of the biggest dangers that this move by Microsoft could create, as Alex Wilhelm at The Next Web notes, a dangerous precedent that we could never go back from.
Doing so would set a precedent that content should charge search engines for the right to be spidered. What you are doing is just that, attempting to buy exclusive rights to News Corp online. This is the proverbial slippery slope.
Openness is one of the most important concepts on the internet. If you create content, it is searchable. Google brought this revolution, and made the internet not just live up to its potential, but made it useable. Pre-functioning search, the internet was just an idea with potential. Search unlocked the dragon, in the best way possible.
By beginning to close search, by hitting other engines with a dollar-war, you, Microsoft, are going to destroy the open internet. If News Corp wants to not play, fine. Let them leave. They will suffer more than they are supposing. But by paying to get an exclusive, you are tearing the fabric of the free exchange of content and ideas that the internet stands on.
For a company that has been making great stride to change the perception of it this idea of buying search results on such a scale the effects would be disastrous. As many have pointed out the calls for a boycott of Microsoft and Bing would start faster than the ink could dry on any deals.
Us: the netizens.
The newspaper industry isn’t suffering this crisis for no reason. We have found new, and in some cases better ways to get our news and most of the time it has nothing to do with newspapers or even news television. We have also discovered that discovering our news doesn’t have to cost us money.
This would change that if only for a short period of time. We are already seeing calls for the return of the paywall with the deluded belief that people – in general – will pay to read the news and that this is the only way for the news industry to survive.
It has nothing to do with the survivability of the news because that will always be there but it has everything to do with big corporations playing power games with us stuck in the middle.
What these companies; Microsoft, Google, and the news industry on a whole, have forgotten is that the game is changing and we are a whole lot mouthier than we use to be. As major contributors to all these companies, whether it be with money or content, we have a say in this as well and for the first time we have the tools to make them listen.
While this is a bad idea for the search industry and most importantly for Microsoft and does nothing more than extend the period of life-support for the news industry it also is bad for us as the lifeblood of the Internet.
Sitting lurking and watching the disaster unfold isn’t an option. We need to tell Microsoft in loud voices that this isn’t an acceptable idea. Hell even if it means using Bing before any deals are made if only to show Microsoft that they don’t need to do this to be successful we need to speak up and stop this idea dead in its tracks.
If we don’t we are the only one’s who will pay the price. Not Microsoft, not Google, and most definitely not the news industry.