Google had better watch out; their foes are starting to rally together. A report today from the Financial Times has the tech blogs in an uproar about a possible Microsoft/News Corp pact. This agreement would center around Microsoft paying News Corp to "de-index" their news sites from Google. Presumably, this would give Bing an edge over Google, as they'd be the only major engine to have access to News Corp sites.
These rumors gel with earlier info about the media giant's plan to de-list content from Google. However, the possibility of a pact between Microsoft and News Corp turns the de-listing from a business measure, to a direct attack on Google. While the talks are at an early stage, FT says that Microsoft is also talking to several other major content providers to ask them to de-list from Google.
Microsoft's Bing already holds nearly 10% of the U.S. search market. While they haven't been able to pull any users out of Google's hide yet, this news could represent a major turning point. If MS can get major content providers to leave Google, Bing could gain a substantial edge over Google.
I've been saying for months now that Bing needs to bring something new to the table in order to truly compete with Google. Apparently Microsoft disagrees. They've decided that innovation is not the path to victory, and are instead trying to throttle Google by killing their access to heavily-viewed news sites.
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Will this new plan work? It's hard to say. News Corp, and many other news media sites, are working to make all of their online content 'for pay'. However, a recent survey showed that 80% of customers will not pay for online news. It's very possible that this pact will just seal the death warrant of several old media dinosaurs. Google's already stated that news content is "not a big part" of their revenue.
If News Corp pushes the fracture between new and old media, I have a feeling they'll learn just which form of content distribution the mass of customers prefer. Sites like the Wall Street Journal prove that 'for pay' subscription services can work, but not for the bulk of news media sites. There just aren't enough prospective customers. Refusing to adapt and pulling away from changing trends won't save the old titans of media, and trying to kidney-shot Google by getting newspapers to de-list won't make Bing popular.
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Both Microsoft and News Corp are taking big gambles here, and I've got a sinking feeling that those gambles won't pay off in the long run. Whichever way this content war goes though, it's going to be fun as hell to watch from the sidelines. Bring popcorn.