Arianna Huffington used her 25 minutes at the FTC’s How Will Journalism Survive The Internet Age? conference to take News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and his executives to task for their remarks comparing news aggregators to “parasites,” “tech tapeworms,” and “thieves:” “Apparently, some in the old media have decided that it is, in fact, an either/or game and that the best way to save, if not journalism, at least themselves, is by pointing fingers and calling names,” she said. “In most industries, if your customers were leaving in droves, you would try to figure out what to do to get them back.”
Huffington went on to imply that Murdoch wasn’t being exactly forthright in his complaints. Not only do many News Corp. properties aggregate content themselves—but Murdoch could easily stop Google and sites like the Huff Post from pulling his content now if he wanted to. “We link to the Wall Street Journal daily. We have never had a single complaint,” she said. “We drive a lot of traffic to them and they like it.”
As for Murdoch’s discussions with Microsoft about getting that company to pay it to remove its content from Google, Huffington called it one of a series of “desperate revenue models” under consideration and said she did not believe it would come to pass. She noted that news publishers—like the NYT—had repeatedly delayed plans to even make decisions about introducing paywalls: “Free content is not without problems, but it’s here to stay and publishers need to come to terms with that.”
Of course, the Huff Post‘s free model isn’t making it profits right now, although Huffington did say that the site’s advertising revenue continued to increase.
We didn’t listen in to Murdoch’s talk—although according to a Dow Jones Newswires report—he continued to maintain that consumers would pay for news and had harsh words for sites that he said were engaged in “wholesale misappropriation” of articles. “These people are not investing in journalism,” Murdoch said. “They’re feeding off the hard-earned efforts and investments of others.”
Arianna Huffington scrive: Desperate Metaphors, Desperate Revenue Models, And The Desperate Need For Better Journalism
Ever since we decided to launch the Huffington Post, I’ve talked about how the future of journalism will be a hybrid future where traditional media players embrace the ways of new media (including transparency, interactivity, and immediacy) and new media companies adopt the best practices of old media (including fairness, accuracy, and high-impact investigative journalism).
And with so many traditional media companies adapting to the new realities, it was ridiculous to engage in an us vs. them, old media vs. new media argument. Either/or was the wrong way to look at things.
But playing nice has increasingly become a one-way street — suddenly the air is filled with shrill, nonsensical, and misplaced verbal assaults on those in the new media.
Apparently, some in the old media have decided that it is, in fact, an either/or game and that the best way to save, if not journalism, at least themselves, is by pointing fingers and calling names. It’s a tactic familiar to schoolyard inhabitants everywhere: when all else fails, reach for the nearest insult and throw it around indiscriminately.
So now sites that aggregate the news have become, in the words of Rupert Murdoch and his team, “parasites,” “content kleptomaniacs,” “vampires,” “tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internets,” and, of course, thieves who “steal all our copyright.”
It’s the news industry equivalent of “your mama wears army boots!” Although, not quite as persuasive.
In most industries, if your customers were leaving in droves, you would try to figure out what to do to get them back. Not in the media. They’d rather accuse aggregators of stealing their content.
Of course, any site can shut down the indexing of its content by Google any time it wants with a simple “disallow” in its robots.txt file. But be careful what you wish for because as soon as you do that, and start denying your content to other sites that aggregate and link back to the original source, you stand to lose a large part of your traffic overnight. But as they say in Australia: “Good on ya.” Of course as someone who cares deeply about the future of this country, I’d say that having Glenn Beck not searchable by Google is an entirely good thing. But a good business move? Not so much.
Thinking that removing your content from Google will somehow keep it “exclusive” shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the web and how it works. As an experiment, Google the key terms from any interesting story currently kept behind a paywall, on the Wall Street Journal, for instance. And imagine no News Corp. source being included in the search results. You’d still get dozens and dozens of links to other sources — including many of the biggest news sites — writing about the story, riffing on it, quoting from it, and commenting on the key facts in it. So what are you going to do, try to make the case that no one should be able to talk about or write about or comment on or report on the stories you make them pay for? It’s a ridiculous notion.