As a sort of companion piece to "Why News Corp. & Murdoch Won't Quit Google," an analysis published in this week's Advertising Age by my colleagues Abbey Klaassen and Nat Ives, I thought I'd spend a little time canvassing Rupert Murdoch's web customers. What do they think of his stated intentions (whether you take them at face value or not) to erect pay walls (presumably like the one already in place at his Wall Street Journal) at his newspapers around the world and possibly even block his publications from being indexed by Google?
Rupert: Bring it on!
In the spirit of the moment, I inquired passively, by surfing Murdoch's newspaper websites to see what sorts of comments his readers have posted about the issues at hand. A frustrating experience, I must note. Many Murdoch papers lack active commenting systems, and others seem to have avoided reporting about the boss's opinions altogether. For instance, type "murdoch google" into the search box at Murdoch's News of the World, and you get "Your search returned no matches. Please try another search." That said, I did enjoy consuming -- for free! -- News of the World "TOP NEWS" stories like "OH YES! Woman has 300 orgasms every day" and "PORN: X Factor stars Jedward caught on net."
But I digress.
What follows is a representative selection from some of Murdoch's papers with particularly active commenters:
"Brilliant idea, you will go the way of the New York Times, broke. I won't read your news items but simply find them through other sources." -- SRG on Murdoch's news.sky.com
"Mr. Murdoch is absolutely right. Businesses are depending on advertising revenues to not only build and sustain their businesses, but also provide us with quality content. Why should they do it for free? They have bills to pay like everyone else! That free-information-bringing-the-world-together-nonsense [is] utter rubbish. Typical liberal tripe. We can make the world a better place to live by teaching others what we did to become successful. Handing out freebies will only keep them poor and dependent." -- Doug Elwell on Murdoch's news.sky.com
"Wow! Good luck on that Rupert!" -- Parkite on Murdoch's barrons.com
"Rupert, this is such a bad idea; it will reduce your wealth and influence; please do it." -- Robin Stack on Murdoch's timesonline.co.uk
"You can't get the cat back into bag. Online surfers have had access to free online news content since the web began, it will prove difficult, if not impossible to attract a large enough paying subscriber base. There will always be sites offering free content that will be 'good enough' to justify NOT paying." -- Randy on Murdoch's news.sky.com
"I would pay a subscription fee. To be effective and influential you need to be focused, accurate and well presented. I tire of reading through the chaos of some blogs which are magnets for all manner of crackpots, attention seekers, extremists, libelous wafflers, 4th plinth wannabees along with some extremely well thought out points as well as experts in their field!" -- Bob Martin on Murdoch's timesonline.co.uk
"The death of News Corp if they do it. Bring it on!" -- missmellyminx on Murdoch's wsj.com
"I switched my home page from Fox News to Drudge Report because of this lunacy." -- Jason Anderson on Murdoch's news.sky.com
"Mr. Murdoch is absolutely right. Google and YouTube make money redistributing others' copyrighted materials. If you want content, pay for it. iTunes users do so for songs. I hope News Corp will succeed also." -- Anonymous on Murdoch's barrons.com
"Interesting, he says 'the people who just simply pick up everything and run with it -- steal our stories ... without payment.' I don't see him sending royalty checks to MySpace users, whose data his company mines and profits from. -- Chris on Murdoch's news.sky.com
"Mr. Rupert Murdoch must be eating some bad Aussie fish. His comments are simply suicidal. He should welcome change and innovate with the times." -- alucardi on Murdoch's wsj.com
"Dear Rupert, There is this thing called the internet. It is changing the way that news content is delivered and paid for. I know you think it is still the 1920s and there's a paperboy on every street corner but this is not the case. Instead, people now have access to thousands of different sources for the news. For free. Including the Fox News stalwarts who read your content via Drudge Report. Will you cut that out as well?" -- Andre on Murdoch's news.sky.com
"Man I hope the good old boy includes FOX in this blockade. How sweet would it be to not see the ultra-right headlines when I read Google News." -- Jim on Murdoch's wsj.com
"If you look at the history of journalism you will find that columnists and writers enjoying large salaries is only a recent development. Things change. New technologies change the business models. It's not what 'you think' you should get paid. It's what we are willing to pay. You should know this. Murdoch showed the print unions that ugly truth many years ago." -- Wo King on Murdoch's timesonline.co.uk
"Great idea Rupert we're all 100% behind you!!!" -- Fox Fan on Murdoch's wsj.com
"I think it is great that Murdoch wants to charge for subscriptions. It really helps put them out of business faster. Go Murdoch, Go. The faster you go, the faster you stop printing papers that rarely get recycled." -- Happy on Murdoch's barrons.com
"I won't pay for it." -- Ralphie on Murdoch's news.sky.com
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Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco