Media Wars – What is The REAL Objective ?
For some time, the Murdoch / News Corp. empire has been making noise about and against Google and other media entities. The up-front objective is to protect the value of its online content but News Corp.’s tactics are so loud and aggressive, one wonders whether there is a subtext. It may be that Rupert and son, James, are simply taking advantage of political and economic distraction to further commercial aims with the full expectation that comment will be restricted to mere reporting and the risk of negativity is minimal. In short, people don’t care too much about who tells them the news and Google surely is fair game as a virtual search monopoly and the go-to supplier of internet advertising – the only real growth market within an industry that traditionally pays to fill the Murdoch coffers.
There are so many articles and follow-ups on Murdoch’s “plans” to pull all News Corp content from Google. More recently, the crescendo builds with Microsoft teaming up to take that content – presumably through its MSN and Bing estates. The thing is, it all makes no sense. The Murdoch marques rely on user visits to absorb adverts. Charging for online journalism will fail spectacularly for a variety of reasons. Those sites that do survive on subscription services do so purely from a customer base centred on research, market analysis and media-watching / regulation. Paid-for or not, engines like Google bring customers to those sites and fuel the necessary page browsing engine. News Corp knows this so what is the real game ? Is this simply an exercise to force a bigger cut of ad impressions and click-through revenue or to sucker Microsoft and others into trading ad serving revenue to News Corp in return for publicity and loyalty ? Perhaps it is just altruistic concern about the monopoly power of Google ? (yes, I am laughing my arse off at this point !).
Mercy dash for Microsoft
More than surviving, Microsoft is playing the Windows 7 card well to ensure user take-up of its desktop software and to extinguish the threat posed by Apple, Linux and the Open Source community. I have often written that Microsoft’s future is not rosy. I was not fooled by the ‘Out of stock due to high demand’ bullshit appearing in PC stores around the UK. The blatant attempts to stoke up a Windows 7 hysteria to rival demand for, say, the iPhone is obvious and – if I am correct – desperate. This feeds the hypothesis that the Redmond posse need to claw back an online presence and are prey to offers of commercial mutuality which may not have any payback for them. There are some diamonds in the rough of the Redmond product set but these are so typical of Microsoft’s output – usually tech-plays which are the work of one or two gifted individuals whom the Corporation was lucky enough to retain and rally. I cite Windows NT as the key example. This operating system still forms the core of the MS OS product set and was essentially designed by a team snatched from DEC and lead by Dave Cutler. This core was launched over 16 years ago thus adding to my charge that Microsoft’s ability to innovate was – and continues to be – suspect. Microsoft remain the supplier of desktop and core server technology globally – whatever I say about their poor quality output and longevity – but they need to bolster their content and online offerings. Desperate indeed when they are now reported to be offering to pay content owners to switch from Google. So is Murdoch getting a Seattle Bung to pull from Google ?
Gelding The BBC
Cameron’s Conservatives and the Currant Bun appear to have dealt to counter the BBC’s independence. Under threat also from New Labour in terms of its funding, the BBC will no doubt have to tread carefully. In fact, the BBC is a content provider which – revenue aside – is an equal to Google, Yahoo and MSN in the worldwide online impact stakes. The UK broadcaster still retains some reputation in terms of the independence and quality of its output and despite domestic criticism from those with other agendas, continues to push digital output which is globally admired. The implicit threats from both mainstream UK political parties have gone largely unremarked. Whilst the BBC would the commentator-of-note on such stories – the commercial ITN news service is all but reduced to celebrity reporting these days – but is stymied by the obvious conflict and risks. Influencing the media is one thing; cowing it into timid observance is quite another. Labour avoided following through on their top-slicing threat to the Beeb in the recent Queen’s Speech but the Tories believe they will have the whip-hand come the next election and have perhaps kept this in the bag to ensure Auntie’s compliance. With the ITV network a lame duck, the BBC continues to challenge Murdoch’s Sky successfully for British audiences. Curbing the BBC’s steady international influence must be high on the News Corp. agenda.
The Murdochs Marshalling Their Men
Is News Corp. the global aggressor here ? With treaties and media tactics well coordinated to launch an online Blitzkrieg, could it be that they will win the day ? Winning in this scenario would be presumably mean replacing Google as the de-facto finder and distributor of content especially advertising. Attacking a variety of targets on several fronts is likely to provide a return in publicity alone. The objective after all may be to simply keep its existing territories in the face of a Google guerrilla army. If true, perhaps the BBC will be left alone but I doubt it. Amidst the distraction, maybe ITV will quietly join the Murdoch stable ?