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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


Re: The Great Invisibility Experiment

[Tom Sattler] May 27, 2010 9:06:19.412

I pay for access to wsj.com, because I simply think it's worth it. If you remember the story a few months ago where Newsday put all its content behind a pay wall, and they announced that they had 35 (yes, thirty-five) subscribers. Newsday is owned by Cablevision, and Cablevision gives all its TV and Internet customers access to Newsday.com for free, but you get the idea --- 35 subscribers doesn't even pay for the coffee in a newsroom. But (and this is the key point here) 35 paying subscribers is better than zero paying subscribers. Do they really make enough money from advertising to pay all the bills? At Newsday they don't, and at a lot of other papers they also don't. There has to be a solution to this someplace, because without a local newspaper holding people accountable, public corruption will be much worse than it otherwise would be. The one thing Newsday does well is shine the light of truth on local Long Island government officials. The left-wing crap they call "Opinion" is difficult to take most of the time, but they DO the local reporting stuff well.

Re: The Great Invisibility Experiment

[james Robertson] May 27, 2010 9:15:17.102


The idea of a paywall, as the WSJ is doing, or the Times, is one thing. Becoming completely invisible to search is just suicide. Asking people to pay for content is not unreasonable. Asking them to spot the invisible gnat in the football stadium is something ese again...

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