What's behind Rupert Murdoch's trash-talking of Google?

Media criticism.
Nov. 10 2009 5:49 PM

Read Between the Lies

What's behind Rupert Murdoch's trash-talking of Google?

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Upon buying MySpace in 2005, Murdoch declared that young people "want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it. They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle." A year later, while still riding the MySpace, new-media wave to cheers from the press, Murdoch spoke with some satisfaction about power "moving away from the old elite in our industry—the editors, the chief executives, and, let's face it, the proprietors."

But that was then, and this is now, what with MySpace having recently entered a death spiral, its unique visitors down 15 percent over the year, its September U.S. page views down to 22 billion from 40 billion the previous year. This dramatic plunge in page views means that the site will "earn about $100 million less than the $900 million it was promised in a three-year [search] deal with Google," the Associated Press reported last week. Hence Murdoch's new rhetoric in which he hails the old elite and calls for their return!

When whistling past the graveyard, it's wise to keep one's options open. It's a maneuver Murdoch excels at. Cory Doctorow, Jason Calacanis, and Mark Cuban hypothesize that Murdoch is gunning for an arrangement in which a search engine from the second tier, such as Bing or Ask, pays him big money for exclusive rights to crawl his sites and display results. In other words, applying the MySpace/Google formula—which expires next year—to his newspaper sites. Good luck with that, Rupert!

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When Rupert Murdoch speaks, he's either lying or filibustering. The only sensible time to listen for him is when he's running silent.

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Thanks to Dan Gross for the vigorous brain massage. Copy-editing by Chad Lorenz. Make-up by Chris Wilson. Laugh by Timothy Noah. For more Murdoch hypocrisy, see this timely observation by Michael Pascoe in the Age. For a direct line to me, send e-mail to slate.pressbox@gmail.com or follow my Twitter feed. Both are free. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

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