Sorry Rupert, News Content Is Not a Google Killer

Why Microsoft Shouldn't Overpay for Exclusive Content for Bing

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Extra, extra, read all about it! Exclusive news, only in today's edition of Bing. You won't find these stories in Google! Only in Bing! Get your Bing now, hot off the press!

That's right, folks. Just when you thought they were dead, we've got ourselves a real old-fashioned newspaper war heating up. But rather than being between publications, this war may be fought over who carries those publications to readers. Bing has had talks with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation about "de-indexing" itself from Google, the Financial Times reported.

Such a deal, it's argued by some, would give Bing compelling and exclusive content that would pull people away from Google (plus line Murdoch's pockets with a little more cash). Who wouldn't choose Bing over Google if only Bing had content from the Wall Street Journal, for example?

Reality check time. Earlier this decade, the Wall Street Journal wasn't listed in Google at all, due to a total paywall and restrictions that it had up. Despite that, Google developed into the search juggernaut it is today. Clearly, that Wall Street Journal being in Google wasn't crucial to Google's success.

Ah, but what if Microsoft gets a large number of news organizations to pull out of Google? Then it will have cornered the market on news! That would be a real Google killer.

Again, reality check. For one, Google's dedicated Google News service is used by relatively few people. For another, until recently, Google didn't even run ads in Google News -- so it doesn't significantly go to the bottom line. For yet another, news gets out via blogs and on other web sites. There's no "OPEC for news," as I'd dubbed it, that can block the flow of news. Indeed, it's almost inevitable that some major news sources are going to decide that cozying up to Google might make more sense if they're competitors are jumping off. They stand to inherit more traffic.

So it's a dumb move by Bing? Probably if Bing overpays. Consider that Bing has already cornered the market on something consumers are far more concerned about, saving money on products they need to buy. For about a year, Bing's offered a "Cashback" service in hopes of bribing visitors away from Google by literally giving them money back on purchases made through Bing. That service hasn't moved the dial in terms of Bing usage.

In the face of this, news content is seen by some as Google killer? If people aren't flocking to Bing to save money on essential products, the idea they'll come over in droves for news content -- which is sadly to many a non-essential product -- is far-fetched.

Microsoft also makes a dangerous move if it pushes for exclusivity on two fronts. First, it's trying to get its deal with Yahoo approved. Exclusive deals often are seen as anti-competitive. The last thing Microsoft needs when it is effectively pushing a competitor out of the marketplace -- Yahoo -- are more questions about potentially anti-competitive behavior.

Second, does it really want to fire up a bidding war with Google. Google both has deep pockets and deep amounts of traffic it could send. Google could never get away suggesting that certain publications only let it index their content but other search engines should be blocked. It's such a dominant search engine that it would be mercilessly attacked as trying to stifle competition.

But if Microsoft opens the exclusivity door, suddenly Google's able to walk through and play the rules others set -- and rules that might not favor Microsoft, in the end.

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