Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned-and-Smoking Watch
links for 2009-10-12

journamalism and Technology...

Via Atrios, via Dan Gillmore. Weston Kosova writes:

Techtonic Shifts : Rupert Murdoch Says Google Is Stealing His Content. So Why Doesn't He Stop Them?: The executives who run big, ailing news organizations—in particular Tom Curley of AP and News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch—complain every chance they get that search engines—in particular Google—are stealing from them, because Google links to their stories but doesn't pay the AP or News Corp. to do so. The way the news bosses see it,  that is theft, plain and simple. They say Google is making tons of money by shamelessly lifting their content, and it's driving newspapers out of business. At a meeting of media executives going on this week in Beijing, Murdoch and Curley gave impassioned speeches, saying they're mad as hell and they aren't going to take it anymore. They warn that aggregators like Google had better start paying up, or else....

Curley and Murdoch's macho outrage is calculated to be quotable, but it is fake. Here's why: go to Google News, or type a newsy topic like "Obama wins Nobel" into Google's search box. What do you get? Headlines and very brief teasers linking to news stories from news sites. If you click on them, you are taken to that news site, where you can read the story, which is surrounded by that site's ads. What, exactly, did Google steal in this scenario? If you don't click on the link, you don't see the story. If you do click on the link, you see the story on the originator's Web site. Instead of stealing, I would call this something else: a free service that drives lots of readers to news Web sites that wouldn't get nearly as much traffic, if any at all, if Google didn't link to their sites for free. That may not be as pithy as crying "thief!" But it has the advantage of being true.

Murdoch and Curley know this. How do we know they know? Because if they really thought Google was stealing from them, and if they really wanted Google to stop driving all those readers to their Web sites at no charge, they would simply stop Google from linking to their news stories.... All they have to do is go to the Web site's robot.txt file and type this:

User-agent: Googlebot

Disallow: /

Poof, the site becomes invisible to Google. Their stories will no longer show up in Google searches. It will be as if they don't exist....

Perhaps... Curley and Murdoch really didn't know that they had the power all along to rid themselves of the Google scourge any time they wanted to. If that's so, they know now. So go right ahead, gentlemen. Stop the thievery. Pull the plug on Google right now. I double-dog dare you.

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