The USS Quad Damage

Dear Elmo Keep

On Rupert Murdoch's whiny "I'm not going to play with the internet" and Google.

The registration was painful enough that I remember closing a NY Times window whenever I managed to click a link into it

Hi Elmo. Thanks for visiting. I’ll try and keep this brief, but for the benefit of the one other guy who reads this blog, I’m going to re-play our short conversation on twitter:

Elmo_Keep: Why would Google not pay new services licensing fees to collate their content in Google News? Internet? Hello? Whatchoothink?
thesunnyk: @Elmo_Keep On the one hand, google is driving traffic to the most interesting headlines. On the other hand, some people just want headlines
Elmo_Keep: @thesunnyk Exactly. I’d say most people never click through to the article. So Murdoch has a point. Google should pay to index news content.
Elmo_Keep: @thesunnyk At the moment they don’t, and reap a pantload of ad revenue from indexing other people’s content. Seems simple to charge them.
thesunnyk: @Elmo_Keep Arguably they also give a pantload of revenue to murdoch for the click-throughs. It’s not as clear-cut as you’re making it out.
thesunnyk: @Elmo_Keep Linking others is a good thing cite=“”>*Elmo_Keep:* @thesunnyk I don’t need Google to tell me where the WSJ, NY Times or Guardian are. I just don’t by that argument.

For the purposes of this exercise I’m going to talk about Google News ( as opposed to ordinary Google indexing. The article I linked in the twitter post does a good enough job of that.

I haven’t done any tests on this, but I’d wager that people read the news in one of two ways (I think you and I agree on these ways). The first are like the beach, and they let the news wash over them like waves. They don’t pay much attention to what comes past them, but they’ve read the headlines. I would say these people haven’t gained any information, and shouldn’t be required to pay for it. More on this later, but I’ve heard no evidence suggesting that these guys form the majority of readers as you suggest.

The second group are like the water. They are a part of the news, they move with it, and converse with it. Increasingly, news is less of a thing that you get told, and more something you talk about. Kids these days apparently “don't watch / read the news”, but are still intelligent and resourceful. I’d believe that the entire way they have of consuming news is different. Depending on which side you stand on, you could call this a democratisation of news, or commoditisation. Both of those means Rupert ends up poor.

Whether that’s right or wrong, I’m not sure, but let me explain Rupert’s beliefs: Rupert comes to work every day and asks his VP of dollar signs: “VP, VP, on the chair, who's the richest guy in Vanity Fair” 1. More recently, the VP has been saying “Dude, sorry to let you know but it's Larry”. Rupert, of course, is enraged. You see, Rupert’s used to having a shit load of money given to him for no good reason. He believes that he deserves it, and that the homeless deserve to be where they are. It’s the fucking order of things or something. If you go with that as your core assumption: That the world’s money belongs to him, he just hasn’t found a way to take it yet, then Google owe him money.

Google, incidentally, is just as tight-arsed with some of their stuff. In some ways, they’re even worse because they use work that ordinary people have done without compensating them for it. Rupert just wants that damn money. It’s arguable whether Google should actually pay people for their data mining. Data mining, like real mining, has a bunch of weird ownership issues: They take material out of government land and leave it years later in a terrible condition. But who the hell is the government to claim ownership of land? Doesn’t it belong to the Aborigines? What about the global warming from the carbon that’s dug up? Not very clear cut!

But here’s the main thing: Google and News Corporation need each other, and both benefit from the relationship. They both make more money as a result, and should just consider the whole thing a wash. I know you’re saying that you know who the NY Times, the Guardian, and who-ever the hell WSJ is, but I reckon if you asked kids today, they may not know about these institutions. More specifically, I’m not sure if you were around for this, but the NY Times actually had a “register before you see the article” thing going for a while there. The registration was painful enough that I remember closing a NY Times window whenever I managed to click a link into it. Eventually, people stopped bothering to link to the Times at all. I’m pretty sure Google couldn’t index that stuff, and even if they could the page-rank would’ve been abysmal because people just couldn’t be bothered linking to it, and that meant less traffic for the times. They’ve since lowered that wall.

Reading headlines is arguably line noise — it actually wastes your time, because you look at the headlines and think “yeah, not interested”. I tend to want to crowd-source my news. I wouldn’t ever go to the SMH front page, because I don’t want to read 99% of that crap, but I might get linked a specific article from someone on twitter, or facebook, or a blog I’m reading on the subject, or whatever. In short, I might read the news if it’s from someone I trust or something I care about, but that’s about it. News Corporation can’t possibly provide that service to me for the next 5 years. People who just read the headlines aren’t even looking at the real content until they click through, they’re providing a service to others who might be interested in that article. If Google can provide that service more accurately, then they’re good for everyone.