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Thread: General/Opinion

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Gerry Patterson, The man who almost invented humble sarcasm tags(Invisible to non-sarcastic browsers)

Murdoch Turns Up The Heat On Google


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Date: Sat, 19 Dec 2009 18:16:31 +1100

Early in 2010, your humble blogger noticed that The Wall Street Journal had started to introduce a number of articles about Computing technology. This seemed to be a move towards positioning themselves for more online content. It may be part of the "grand strategy" that the (new) owners of WSJ have for creating a business model based on "charging for online content". The basis of this model seems to be a strategy of showing the casual visitor only the first paragraph of certain articles and on the same page to ask the visitor to become a "paid-up" subscriber. However the interesting thing about this model is that not all new visitors are treated the same.

In an attempt to get some concessions from Google, media magnate Rupert Murdoch has threatened to prevent Google's indexing robots from crawling his online publications. According to him, Google is benefiting from News Corporation's online content and creaming off the profits. He has also declared that his online publications will be developing a strategy to "charge for online content".

Since News Corp acquired the Wall Street Journal, it has become a flagship in this enterprise, which is being watched with considerable interest by numerous other media organisations.

There are however, several obvious flaws in Murdoch's aggressive utterances about Google, which are mostly hot air and blather. About a fortnight ago however, some additional heat was added by way of rumours that Microsoft might "pay" gate-keepers for exclusive deals with their far less popular search engine, Bing. Briefly these are the problems with such a strategy:

  1. Firstly it is very easy to prevent Google from indexing content. All it takes is a simple modification of the "robots" exclusion file. However, for any site touting for new visitors to view their online content this would be tantamount to committing online suicide.

  2. Nobody actually "owns" the news. This is a problem for traditional news outlets, who watch with increasing alarm as their revenue streams bleed into online outlets. But any attempt to try and take "ownership" of news is also doomed. It would lead to alternative sites carving an even bigger slice out of the bleeding heavy-weights.

  3. Google needs content every bit as much as content providers need Google. This actually opens new opportunities for content providers who are willing to adapt to the new environment. Those that don't adapt will perish.

More intriguing is the way that the Wall Street Journal Has implemented the pay-for-view model. For example if your humble blogger clicked on a Wall Street Journal article featured in the Google News gadget, he would be presented with only the first half a paragraph. Below this would be an invitation to become a subscriber and thus avoid such inconveniences.

However if your humble blogger opened the Google News gadget in full page mode and clicked on the "View Related Stories" option, then the WSJ site would show the full article. Obviously the WSJ webmaster is smart enough to realise that withholding the article from a reader who has just come from a Google Search Page would only encourage the reader to click on the next item in the search results page.

Even more intriguing was a trend your humble blogger noticed about the content that was offered in this way. For example the now famous Hacked E-mail story, which was about emails stolen from the University of East Anglia, got a lot space in the Wall Street Journal. But none of these stories were withheld. Whenever your humble blogger clicked on a story about those dreadful scientists possibly cooking the books, it seems that the Wall Street Journal was quite happy to offer their (usually negative) opinions about this matter for free.

And, dear reader, your blogger can't help make the humble observation that the Wall Street Journal didn't seem to find any space for a story about the billions of dollars being spent on lobbying by companies in the fossil carbon business.

All of which seems to indicate an editorial bias on the part of the Wall Street Journal.

Possibly those scientist who expressed their opinions in private correspondence had good reasons to be concerned about the well organised and very well funded global warming scpetics whose share of media attention is way out of proportion to the substance of their research.


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