:::: MENU ::::
Monthly Archives: November 2009

Murdoch looking into blocking Google from giving him free traffic

Rupert Murdoch, after a short time of seemed like he understood the internet was a new and exciting tool, has since changed his medication and now sees it as the evil of all evils. He has been pushing, vocally, not through action, reinstating paywalls on his various media properties. The Wall Street Journal is one of the last major newspapers to have a paywall around most of its content.

Now Murdoch is claiming he will block Google from indexing the WSJ and his other media properties. Murdoch told Sky News Australia “If they’re just search people… They don’t suddenly become loyal readers.” He explained that traffic from search engines involve no loyalty – just view a few headlines and leave.

Removing a site from Google takes just a few lines of code in a robot.txt file, something Google and other search engines make no attempt to hide. So why is Murdoch waiting?

Maybe because even without loyalty, Murdoch knows traffic will drop significantly without search engines bringing tons of free traffic. Even if 99 percent of those people never return, there are 1 percent that stay and might return. It’s up to Murdoch and his websites to give these users a reason to stay and then find ways to monetize that traffic. Murdoch has previously said no news websites or blogs are making serious money, ignoring the massive enterprises behind Gawker, Huffington Post, PerezHilton, TechCrunch and hundreds of others who have embraced the internet to find more cost-effective ways to engage audiences and produce compelling content.

Techdirt points out that for all Murdoch’s grandstanding, his own websites have aggregators that link to other people’s content the same way he claims others are stealing his content. When others aggregate content it’s stealing. When Murdoch does it, its convenient? Maybe this will stop his crusade to overturn fair use in the courts since he’d be culpable too.

Evidence mounting that file-sharing and movies can live happily together

…but movie companies certainly don’t see that. Paramount Pictures released its study of the five million IP addresses it tracked who downloaded camcorded copies of Star Trek.  Writing to the FCC, Paramount says:

Just five years ago, one had to be computer literate and exceedingly patient to pirate movies. Today, literally anyone with an internet connection can do it. Clunky websites are being replaced by legitimate looking and legitimate feeling pirate movie websites, a perception enhanced by the presence of premium advertisers and subscription fees processed by major financial institutions.

So after years of suing and spending millions in lobbying, spying, and prevention, Paramount agrees it is easier than ever to download movies. Downloading movies “has advanced from geek to sleek” they say.

I interpret this as a sign that the movie companies’ campaign against piracy has not worked. It is easier than ever to download any movie, song, or game you want and it will only get faster and easier. More people are doing it and aren’t embarrassed by it. For all the propaganda (see last Sunday’s 60 minutes), file-sharing is what the market wants.

Paramount, of course, sees the opposite.  The spreading of file-sharing means movie companies need more laws to stop file-sharing, while never showing how these laws, assuming they worked (which they won’t), would encourage customers to go back to their former purchasing practices.

That’s why Big Champagne, a company that tracks online piracy, is urging movie companies to rethink their piracy strategies, claiming their own practices are encouraging file-sharing, especially in European countries where they might wait weeks or months for a TV show or movie to air. CEO Eric Garland tells CNET:

In the digital world, we don’t want to wait three months, six months. We’re just not accepting that anymore…we want it all, we want it right now and even Mom and Pa Kettle are getting to the point where they say if it’s not on, let’s just fire up the computer and watch it. If they want me to wait six months, I’ve got other options. And people don’t really have a conscious [sic] or qualms about that.

So we know waiting hurts (why wait when you don’t have to). But instead of searching for alternatives, movie companies want more windows, or at least maintain the ones they have. This goes against what customers are demanding. Instead of offering customers a compelling product, movie companies just want the government to pass laws supporting their obsolete business models.

For all the increases in file-sharing, movie production and revenue has risen (ignore the blatant lies in the aformentioned 60 Minutes segment), from 567 movies released in 2004 to 1177 movies scheduled for release this year.  Total revenue rose by about $300 million from 2004-2008 (this year hasn’t ended, and for reference 1037 movies came out in 2008).  So more movies, more money. I wish file-sharing would hurt my industry the same way.