Bing and News Corp: it'll never happen

posted 23 November 2009

News Corp. and Microsoft are reportedly negotiating a deal under which News Corp. would de-index their sites from Google (and presumably all other search engines?) and be indexed exclusively by Bing, for which Microsoft would pay News Corp. a fee.

This is a stupid idea that is doomed to fail. I think np publisher has sufficient bargaining power to pull it off.

People do not switch search engines easily, and will not do it for a single publisher. If a really, really big group of publishers grouped together to do it, they might have a shot -- but since they would in effect be colluding to raise prices (thanks Ed), that would probably be illegal. Plus, by far the biggest single publisher of original content on the net is Wikipedia, which has no commercial incentives of any kind and a mission to be as open and accessible as possible.

Even with legal questions aside, News Corp don't have the clout. From Google's perspective, it doesn't really matter if you're a news site or a blog host -- they just want searches to drive traffic against. The first News Corp site to turn up in the top US sites is Fox News, and it's down at number 39 (globally they do even worse *). Even just considering news sites, they are sixth in a crowded field. Cutting themselves out would just give Wikipedia, the NYTimes and the rest even more share. Individual publishers are just not important enough for Google to care about losing them, not even if you banded all the News Corp sites together.

So if it wouldn't be worth Google's money to pay them to stay, would it be worth Microsoft's money to pay them to leave? It's hard to see how. The small number of people who would switch to Bing in order to keep finding News Corp content would have to generate generate enough incremental revenue on Bing to pay for the loss of all the pageviews that previously came from Google, plus some margin to make it worth Microsoft's time. It's really tough to imagine that happening.

De-indexing would be a lose-lose-lose proposition for Bing, News Corp and Google, but most especially for News Corp. This idea is going nowhere.


* Source: Alexa Global Top Sites. I am ignoring search engines, social networks and aggregators, only producers of original content.

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