Mr Rupert Murdoch was interviewed over 37 minutes this week by David Spears of SkyNews on his views on a broad range of subjects. We’ll focus here on his perception of the challenge from Google and other search engines for the traditional core of News Corp’s power, its newspapers and their advertising-supported business model.
You can watch the video here, and go on to read our take on it.
As has been widely repeated, earlier this year Murdoch gave a glimpse of his thinking favouring use of pay walls for newspapers. His Wall Street Journal uses them to give access to paid up subscribers and only headlines and a bit of each first paragraph to non-subscribers.
During the interview Murdoch expands on his thinking about spreading pay walls to other News Corp newspapers, while probably also at least trialling the blocking of search engine spiders. He may well have additional unannounced strategies in mind.
A short note about blocking web spiders or web crawlers. The web’s lingua franca, HTML code, has long permitted a technical means by which a website can easily code a page to inform a search engine to not tag that page. Legitimate search engines obey this convention. Thus web surfers can only then get to the blocked pages by typing the correct URL, not by using a search engine.
SkyNews is one-third owned by News Corp and has uploaded the 37 minute video interview with Murdoch to YouTube.
I don’t recall Murdoch being this open about his play with a mix of politics, law, law changes and commercial might to grow or keep power.
Surely this interview is a parody? For me Murdoch appears akin to a declining 20th century leader being invited back by revolutionaries to have another interview on the free tv station [here it’s YouTube] now run by revolutionary forces sapping the leader’s power base.
Only the first 10 minutes of the interview are on the war between traditional media and internet assets. Murdoch repeats his view that papers and printing presses will be dead in say 20 years. “It’s hard to find people under 30 who buy newspapers”, he says.
What he says from 12.12 minutes into the video about YouTube and competition suggests his real view is that sometime soon the game will be over for traditional media as we’ve known it.
Speers asks: “But in general does the internet pose any challenge to the traditional tv and film industry?”
Murdoch answers: “You take YouTube… In a sense, look yes, anything that takes peoples time and that they enjoy, and you can have a lot of fun on YouTube. A lot of laughs. And I guess that’s competition. Those people could be watching a comedy on television or they could be at a movie house or they could be in their armchair reading a newspaper. Yeah, everything is competition.”