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Sorry News Corp, News Not Core to Search Advertising

Why Murdoch's Threats Don't Scare Google

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | Posted by Aaron Goldman

Posted In: Digital Marketing / Search Engine Marketing / Google / Press / Press Mentions

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Earlier this week, the Financial Times set the search world abuzz by reporting that Microsoft was in discussions with News Corp to compensate it for removing content from the Google index while still making it available it to Bing.

When I first heard about this potential deal, I posted my reaction on Digital Sea Change -- Search Wars: Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures. My POV was also cited in two MediaPost articles (excerpts below). I won't rehash all my points here but I do want to expand on one particular thread around the value of news content to search advertisers. I'll pick it up here after the break...

Could Microsoft-New Corp.'s Deal Mean Sharing Ad Profits?
Technically it's possible to block search engines from indexing content. Aaron Goldman, managing partner at Connectual, tells MediaPost that New Corp could code a robots.txt file to prevent Google or any other search engine spider from crawling its content. The news agency would arrange to pump its content to Microsoft through an API or some other format, he says.

But Goldman doesn't think anyone would miss the News Corp content from Google's index. "Google has no shortage of other sources to cite for queries related to News Corp content, so people will just get their news or entertainment from other places," Goldman writes in a blog post. "Google is one of the top brands in the world. News Corp is not. Google is the source the masses trust when seeking information. News Corp is not."
Can News Corp. Syndicate Its Content For Search Engine Use?

It comes down to effectively monetizing the model, according to Aaron Goldman, managing partner at Connectual. "People looking for news or content are not in a commercial mindset, so they'd be less likely to click on ads and convert for advertisers," he says. "It would be very hard for Microsoft to make up in advertising what it would take to pay the publishers for exclusivity."
The key thing to remember here  -- and perhaps the biggest reason Google doesn't appear to be worried about News Corp. pulling its content -- is that news traffic is not easily monetized by search engines. Heck, it's not easily monetized by the news publications themselves which is why they're all in so much trouble.

Chapter #4 in my forthcoming book about marketing lessons learned from Google is "Mindset Matters." I can't think of a better example of this then news search. When people are searching on news topics, they're looking for that one stat, article or video that will give them the info they want/need. This is not a good time for advertisers to interrupt with a sponsored message.

On the other hand, when people are searching for travel or shopping, they're often in "buy-mode" and open to relevant deals -- not only from trusted brands but from sources they don't recognize.

As the old saying goes, "Strike while the iron's hot." When it comes to news, though, searchers are truly foreigners.

Update 12/3: Yesterday, Eric Schmidt (ironically in a WSJ op-ed) reaffirmed my position that Murdoch's threats to pull content from the index will not have a big financial impact on Google because news consumption is not a profitable mindset. In Schmidt's words, "The claim that we're making big profits on the back of newspapers also misrepresents the reality. In search, we make our money primarily from advertisements for products. Someone types in digital camera and gets ads for digital cameras. A typical news search-for Afghanistan, say-may generate few if any ads. The revenue generated from the ads shown alongside news search queries is a tiny fraction of our search revenue."


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