What Murdoch & Newspaper Can Learn from an SEO

murdochA couple of weeks ago, Rupert Murdoch announced that Newscorp is likely to make its content unfindable to users on Google when it launches its paid content strategy. To me, Murdoch’s decision sounds like stubborn chauvinism. I mean, NewsCorp isn’t the only name in news, and I think in the midst of so many Google News results, most users are unlikely to notice that Newscorp results are missing.

A Solution

What Murdoch, and all publishers, should be doing if they want to charge for content, is letting only Google in and locking out its users. What I’m talking about is Google’s first click free feature whereby Google is let in behind the wall to index content and searchers can then access only the content of their search result — if they try to navigate anywhere else on the site, they’re prompted to login, register, or whatever…

An Imperfect World in Flux

Now, I understand that this still poses a problem for news outlets whose bread and butter is being able to monetize timely content, but bear with me: what if newspapers blocked Google from accessing their full-length content, and had “news briefs” accessible via first-click-free so when users clicked through, they only got one or two paragraphs and then had to subscribe/register to access full-length content?

Granted, even this is an imperfect scenario: (1) users will likely just seek out the rest of the story elsewhere, (2) most news consumers only read the first couple of paragraphs anyway, and (3) Google favors lengthy content. But even these three realities should stand as a lesson for Murdoch and his contemporaries: the times are a-changin’, but it might not even be that much of a problem because the average mass-consumers only wants the headline, lead, and few extra words anyway.

Go (Back) To Market Strategy

The strangest thing about Murdoch’s decision isn’t that no search marketing specialist seems to have been consulted, but that the majority of Newscorp newspaper holdings are local, and if I want local news, I’ll go directly to my local Newscorp publication rather than bothering with Google news. So Google isn’t all that much of a problem for Newscorp there.

The problem that Newscorp is facing is the same one that all newspapers are facing: they are in the business of distributing original, authority content, still have that content, but were too slow to adapt to new distribution technologies and channels. Trying to eschew how that that technology is now mainstream is tantamount to refusing to understand the fundamentals of the industry you’re in: content distribution.

What Murdoch and other newspapers should be doing is swallowing sunk costs (and pride) like big boys and girls, and start running that long, uphill rat-race to catch up while they still have a chance of qualifying for survival.

Maybe what Murdoch thinks he’s doing, here, is opting out of all the traffic that Google News can send for searches on more national and international level stories, but that’s gonna f**king hurt his visits and page views, and drive the value of his ad space down into the cellar.

I just hope that the WSJ is able to survive in tact long enough for Murdoch to realize that he’s being a cranky old humbug, and reverse his decision, ’cause let’s face it: North American democracy needs publications like the WSJ, and it’d be a crying f**king shame if it got tanked because Murdoch is too set in his anachronistic ways of thinking to accept that distribution channels have changed and that publishing is about leveraging the most cost-efficient channels available than it is about monetizing any particular one.

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