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The Great Invisibility Experiment

May 27, 2010 7:06:52.556

People have been telling Ruper Murdoch to put up or shut up for awhile - meaning, if he really thinks that "Google is stealing his content", he should just use robots.txt to cut off access to his news sites. Well - it seems that he's going to try that experiment:

The papers, which plan to start charging users for access to their newly redesigned Web sites in late June, will prevent Google and other search engines from linking to their stories. Although they are not the first papers to erect pay barriers around their content, the papers are going a step further by making most of their site invisible to Google's Web crawler. Except for their homepages, no stories will show up on Google.

I have no idea how they expect anyone to find their material after that. It's not like the old days, when you would walk out, get the paper off the driveway and browse - now you find things via:

  • Search
  • Friend referrals (Twitter, Facebook, etc)
  • Automated Search (Google News, Yahoo News, etc)
  • RSS/Atom (not the mainstream, but a lot of influencers)

Notice what's not on that list - directly visiting the site. Oh sure, there are people who go to media sites directly (I'll go to the NY Times for baseball coverage, for instance). But I don't think it's the primary way it happens. Within a month, I expect that traffic will drop off precipitously at these outlets, and Murdoch will end up executing a painful climb down from his idiotic "Google is stealing from me" mindset. It won't just be painful though; it will be costly. Whatever rates he's getting for ads now will plummet with the traffic levels.

When you look up the phrase "bad plan" in the future, you'll run across an item about this as the prime example...

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posted by James Robertson

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