News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is leading the call for online media organizations to refrain from giving away its content. In particular, Murdoch views content from his company’s The Wall Street Journal as too valuable to let non-subscribers get articles and content from the newspaper. Murdoch has taken this stance to the point of removing all WSJ stories (and all stories from News Corp. publications) from Google’s search engine index. If you want it, you have to buy it- no free access.
This move is the latest chapter in a debate that is almost as old as the commercial Internet itself. People pay for newspaper and magazine content in print form, so why should expectations change when it comes to the online channel? The News Corp. decision to remove stories from Google’s search index adds a new chapter to the debate. News Corp. seems to be overlooking the fact that a significant percentage (25%) of traffic to wsj.com each day comes via Google. Moreover, 44% of site visitors coming through Google have not visited the site within the past 30 days. In other words, Google is driving a sizable percentage of unique views to wsj.com.
Charging for content delivered online, particularly from an esteemed publication like The Wall Street Journal, is a reasonable strategy. Not all media companies have the clout with consumers to charge for content, but News Corp. does possess such a brand in wsj.com. However, making wsj.com content unaccessible through Google searches seems to be based on outdated thinking. Today’s Web is about being open, and while News Corp. has a brand worthy of charging for online content, its new search engine policy is too restrictive and misses the opportunity to engage prospective subscribers.
Online Media Daily – “To Be Free, Or Not Be Free, Murdoch May Find Out: 25% of Journal’s Traffic Comes from Google“