Should newspapers charge for news online or buy into the Google dream?

In Search Engine News by Marius Badenhorst

Last week New Corporation declared that they may start charging for news online and stop allowing Google to index their stories. Yet, Google has declared their commitment to the news industry. So, what does the future hold for the news industry online?

News corp Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corporation, told Sky News Australia (which belongs to News Corporation) last week that he thinks they will start charging for their newspaper content online. He also said that they are considering disallowing Google to index the pages, so that the news stories will only be found by subscribers and won’t come up in organic searches. Free online newspapers indexed by Google have been attributed to the ‘death of the traditional newspaper’ and it seems that Murdoch is declaring war on Google News’ dominance of the industry. He also told Sky News that he doesn’t believe offline newspapers will disappear in the next twenty years but it is possible that they will eventually die out.

Earlier this year, CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, told Fortune magazine that he wishes he could save the traditional newspaper. He told Fortune that Google would like to offer newspapers tools to monetise their customer base online and traditional newspapers are disappearing as a result of printing costs. In response to Murdoch’s controversial statement on Sky News, an unnamed spokesperson for Google said, “Google News and web search are a tremendous source of promotion for news organisations, sending them about 100, 000 clicks every minute”. The spokesperson added that very few news organisations choose not to include their material in Google search results but if they tell Google not to index the pages, Google will comply.

Murdoch said he doesn’t believe that leads from Google searches are of much value to their newspapers but instead allow people to take advantage of the free information. “…People…simply just pick up everything and run with it – steal our stories, we say they steal our stories – they just take them. That’s Google, that’s Microsoft, that’s, a whole lot of people … they shouldn’t have had it free all the time, and I think we’ve been asleep,” he added. Murdoch emphasises the fact that the News Corporation won’t charge a great deal of money for subscribing online and the price is likely to be in line with the price of traditional newspapers.

Responses to Murdoch’s statement have been heated: many people believe that being invisible on Google will kill the newspapers, while others think that advertising will be unable to sustain high quality online news sites. But does this mean that online newspaper subscriptions are the way of the future? Watch this space because this is definitely not the end of the debate.

About the Author

Marius Badenhorst