Microsoft, News Corp. Eye Web Pact

(CBS/AP)
That knock on the door may be Microsoft, wanting to de-index you — that is, if you are a media organization whose news content is being searched and indexed by Google.

The Financial Times reports that Microsoft has had discussions with News Corp. over the possibility of paying the media company to "de-index" its news Web sites from Google.

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch has said that he would block Google (online and in court) to prevent the search giant from "stealing stories" published by his papers, which include the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, the Times of London, the Sun, and the Australian.

News Corp. has been studying ways to increase revenue from its online content (it charges subscription fees for access to much of the content on wsj.com), and has taken a harder line against Google.

However, while sources tell FT that News Corp. — the world's second-largest media conglomerate — approached Microsoft about the prospective de-indexing, FT reporters Matthew Garrahan, Richard Waters and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson write that Microsoft has approached other online publishers to persuade them about blocking their sites from Google as well.

Microsoft, which owns the rival Bing search engine, declined to comment on the reports, as did News Corp.

Exclusivity agreements with publishers would be a way to differentiate Bing from Google for users. (Microsoft accounted for just under 10% of U.S. searches last month, according to ComScore.)

Earlier this month a Google spokesman said the search engine was "a tremendous source of promotion for news organizations," and that publishers choose to put their content online because "they want it to be found." Still, Google said if a publisher tells them not to include their site's content in their searches, they don't.

Google: Rupert Murdoch Can Block Us If He Wants To (Telegraph, 11.09.09)

While this assault by Microsoft/Bing might ultimately hurt Google's profits, Microsoft's entreaties may help the newspaper industry, writes FT, by forcing payment for content.

However, the paper reports that Google's U.K. director Matt Brittin told a Society of Editors conference last week that Google didn't need news content. "Economically, it's not a big part of how we generate revenue," he said.

For more, read:
Microsoft and News Corp Eye Web Pact (FT, 11.22.09)