Rupert Murdoch vs. the "Content Kleptomaniacs" and "Plagiarists" (See: Google)

Kristina Halvorson

There's a big fuss being made over the fact that Mr. Rupert Murdoch has said that his media empire will "probably remove our sites from Google's index."

How DARE he hide his content behind the iron curtain of non-indexing?

Murdoch isn't stupid. (Old and confused, yes. Stupid? Not so much.) He's talking about making a seriously bold move, here, in the interest of keeping his empire from crumbling. So why are people freaking out?

It's JUST WRONG. Right?

When the religion of the Web is that you can find anything you want, from anywhere, at any time, Murdoch's plan is straight-up blasphemous.

With this in mind, our faithful interviewer asked, "One of the key, underlying principles of the Internet is that anyone from anywhere in the world can access information freely. Wouldn't this change mean people have to afford it?"

Murdoch replied, "They're already paying for newspapers. And anyone can afford a newspaper, they're the cheapest things in the world. Electronically, it will be even cheaper."

(This cracks me up, because, of course, the majority of the world's population either can't afford newspapers or simply don't have access to them …  at least, newspapers that offer unbiased, quality reporting.)

Here's what Rupert thinks you should do.

Generally, Murdoch wants you to know that his content is actually Quality Content because he employs real reporters, real writers, and real editors who offer experienced, insightful points of view. Which, of course, is true. However, this argument also implies that people shouldn't go looking for "quality content" on search engines. No, no. You should go straight to an established publisher's website.

Unfortunately, the internets don't care so much about the "should"s. There's a reason Google gets about a bajillion times more traffic than every publication website in the world … combined.

More than anything else, Murdoch is counting on his current readership's loyalty to his brands. He admits, though, that he's not sure what that's going to look like in five, ten, twenty years... which means that this ends up looking more like a Hail Mary pass than anything else.

Rupert, dear, you can't kill search.

Online readers typically know what they're looking for, and they want the fastest way to get it. They want to be educated or entertained. They want their questions answered, their lives made easier. They have the Google or Yahoo! or MSN toolbar built into their browsers. They're going to use it.

Murdoch doesn't seem to get this, or care. The rest of the world, of course, does. Including you. You've been obsessed with SEO and page rankings for years. You don't have the option of breaking up with Google.

However, you also shouldn't be so obsessed with Google that you neglect to remember this all-important fact: getting your content indexed by the search engines isn't enough to win eyeballs that matter. Just because your users can find your content doesn't mean you've won your battle.

Content first. Google second.

Here's where you can take a page from our friend Rupert and start placing significant value on content people will care about. Editorial oversight. Quality research. Quality writing. These things actually do matter. They inspire trust and motivate action.

Getting to quality content is worth your organization's investment: time, budget, people. Because once your readers arrive from Google, they'll either like what they see and stick around for a bit, or lunge for the back button.

Remember, people: If you have a website, you're a publisher. If you participate in social media, you're a publisher. If you create emails, help text, product descriptions … you're a publisher.

You may not be selling content, but your content is selling you. Google won't solve your problems. Of course, ignoring Google won't, either …  sorry, Rupert.

P.S.

I just have to add this little gem: In the interview, Murdoch says that public broadcasting should be of the highest quality, which commercial broadcasting can't afford to be. Then he tells us that " most of the stuff [public broadcasting does] is stolen from the newspapers now. And we'll be suing them for copyright. They'll have to spend a lot more money paying a lot more reporters when they can't steal from newspapers."

Old. Confused. Sigh.