Hypothetical peek into the feverish mind of Rupert Murdoch

I turned my Boing Boing post about Murdoch's mad pronouncements on the Internet into a column for the Guardian, called "For whom the net tolls."
What, exactly, is Rupert Murdoch thinking? First, he announces that all of Newscorp's websites will erect paywalls like the one employed by the Wall Street Journal (however, Rupert managed to get the details of the WSJ's wall wrong - no matter, he's a "big picture" guy). Then, he announced that Google and other search engines were "plagiarists" who "rip off" Newscorp's content, and that once the paywalls are up (a date that keeps slipping farther into the future, almost as though the best IT people work for someone who's not Rupert "I Hate the Net" Murdoch!) he'll be blocking Google and the other "parasites" from his sites, making all of Newscorp's properties invisible to search engines. Then, as a kind of loonie cherry atop a banana split with extra crazy sauce, Rupert announces that "fair use is illegal" and he'll be abolishing it shortly.

What is he thinking? We'll never know, of course, but I have a theory.

For whom the net tolls


  1. Well as I commented on the earlier post, by definition fair use can’t be illegal. But many things that netizens assume are fair use may not fall within its bounds. The fact is, the 5 part test isn’t too helpful to end users, and most suits end up being settled out of court, so no precedent is set. There are relatively few good court cases to delineate what exactly constitutes fair use in the U.S. Sony, Feist, Bridgeman…So expansive claims of copyright are best seen as threats to sue, not definitave legal statements.

  2. NewsCorp…..even the name alone bothers me. We shouldn’t be getting our news from Corporations.

    That would be awesome if they removed FoxNews from indexing on Google. If you remove all of the Murdoch owned properties from a Google search for FoxNews, the first thing you would get right now is OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.
    Number 2 is NewsHounds: We watch Fox so you don’t have to.

    Number 3 is FAIR.org – Fairness and accuracy in reporting. with an article called “The Most Biased Name in News”.

  3. I agree with suburbancowboy about the evil sounding name. Anything that ends with Corp seems to be something representative of an evil villain in a movie.

    I think someone (not me) should start a petition and get them to go behind a pay firewall, maybe even remove FoxNews from cable so that it is only available for pay from the website.

  4. I think I get it: You don’t think highly of the Rupinator. Fair enough. So here’s an idea: Let’s take it to the next level. What are serious ideas for maintaining a quality fourth estate? Journalism, a free press, is a key ingredient in a free people. It’s not just News Corpian newsrooms getting hit. It’s the NYT and every other news operation that counts on ads to finance its work — whether you consider their work “quality” or “not.”

    Simple question, tough to answer: How does quality journalism thrive and pay for itself in the digital world.

    Anyone? Rupert obviously hasn’t figured it out. Are you smarter than Rupert??

  5. Isn’t this like going back to Portals, except with pay? I remember when that was all the Web Blister rage back during the religion of capital burn and first to market and we’ll make profits later.

  6. Isn’t “blocking” Google & other search engines a simple piece of HTML? He makes it sound so sinister, all Matrix like.

  7. Q: How does quality journalism thrive and pay for itself in the digital world.

    A: Advertising. It’s what makes the world go round :)

  8. The alternate plan could be that the Dems and Obama continue to make such donkeys of themselves with their politics of no change whatsoever, and their support and continuance of Bush crimes and Constitutional violations, that in the next election the Republicans win by a landslide, all Democrats having decided to sit out the elections, not having been given a reasonable alternative by the Democratic-Right party that has flowed in to fill the spot left by the Republican party’s wholesale move into the far, far, ultra-right lunatic fringe corner. At that point, a 100% Republican Congress, full of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman clones, having been totally purchased by US business, do whatever Rupert asks to castrate US copyright law in favor of gigantic corporations, and he’s proven right.

    go ahead, say it can’t happen, but I believe the possibility is definitely there. Are YOU ready to give these people a second term???? > http://pubrecord.org/politics/5944/controversial-patriot-provisions/

    1. The alternate plan … donkeys … crimes … far, far, ultra-right lunatic fringe! At that point … 100% … castrate!

      oh dear.

  9. @hello whirled

    A serious idea for maintaining a quality fourth estate?

    How about concentrating on the quality part of the phrase. It seems to me that the highest quality outlets are doing ok (as are the “lowest quality” celebrity news outlets). WSJ and Economist are profitable. That’s about all it takes to maintain. It’s a different question if what you are actually trying to maintain is never ending ending growth and stock price increases.

    The high end and the low end of the news business are doing ok. They are profitable. The unprofitable outlets are mostly the huge number of news reprinters that make up the middle of the market. They can die and not much will be lost. In fact, it’s a good way to evaporate some debt and allow an innovator to scoop up the assets cheap and build something better (c.f. web 1.0).

    Murdoch’s television outlets are also doing fine. By putting up an antenna and watching for free, am I stealing content? Are people like me next on Murdoch’s list?

    1. concentrating on the quality part of the phrase

      The WSJ is profitable but just “barely” according to Murdoch — and it’s one of the few that does successfully have a pay wall online. The NYT is in dire financial shape. The Economist is basically part of Pearson and it is being hurt by the ad slump.

      But I’m not talking only about these big national or international things. (And I’m definitely not talking about cable TV, which has an entirely different business model.)

      By “quality,” I mean local news, too. Traditionally, local or city newspapers provided an invaluable service– tracking town hall, the cops beat, school boards, high-school sports, the first tomato of the season. They exposed the bad, celebrated the good. That really is disappearing, whether you’re in big Philadelphia or Smalltown USA. How to make that kind of coverage work again? Because it is very important. It, too, represents “quality” journalism that’s really fundamental to democracy.

  10. The world is better off without Rupert Murdoch’s idea of “news.”

    Let him screw up his business. It will make room for better companies to shine through.

  11. “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

    If Rupert Murdoch wants to consign his propaganda to the black hole of unfindability, I’m in no hurry to discourage him.

  12. When reading these articles over the past couple of days, I keep flashing back to “The Simpsons” episode, during which Betty White is hosting a telethon and asking for money for Fox.

    Betty White: Sure, Fox makes a fortune from advertising, but it’s still not enough.
    Rupert Murdoch (who was manning one of the telephones): Not nearly enough!

    1. chesterfield:

      It’s true hyperlocals didn’t do as badly last year as the industry. But they aren’t doing “quite well,” as that press release spins it. Anyway, my point is broader: The broad weakness in journalism. And not just last year, which was a weird year by any business reckoning.

      Separately, re pitying the NYTimes (or not): I find it boring to rehash why the NYT, or Murdoch, or any number of newsrooms got into their pickle. We know the reasons, and we have the facts: They *are* in a pickle. I’m interested in fresh ideas about how journalism survives.

      I’m asking a cold, hard, pitiless question: What are some smart ideas for new business models.

      So, we agree hyperlocal is a relative bright spot. Question: Is there a business lesson in that for others?

      1. @hello whirled

        How journalism survives? You can try, but you can’t kill journalism.

        The fact is, news is overproduced and underconsumed.
        Some formats (like daily newspapers) have had a good run, bit it’s mostly over for them. The idea that news is delivered in daily digests on messy paper is almost as quaint as having a milkman (we had one when I was growing up).

        There really are only two business models out there.
        1) I pay for it (paywall).
        2) Somebody else pays for it (advertising).
        I guess there is a third model as well – nobody pays for it (bloggers).

        It’s clear that the second model is the winner right now. Local tv stations use advertising to support trucks, cameras, crews, anchors, helicopters, studios, broadcasting equipment and more. Clearly there is money in it somewhere.

        In the end, I think a hefty contraction in the news industry is healthy. There is an audience out there, it’s just that the supply outstrips the demand.

  13. I just want to point out, as probably others have said earlier…
    I can’t wait for this all to happen, I really hope he means ALL murdoc properties especially ANYTHING to do with fox.
    this would be the greatest thing to happen to the web.
    ah ah ah.
    like Hitler shooting himself in the foot or something. maybe even both feet!
    ah ahahaha.
    love it man.

  14. Or maybe the exclusive online source for Newscorp content will be Apple.

    And maybe Apple will use this exclusive news content as the cornerstone of a new service called iText which (along with online magazines, books and textbooks) aims to do the same for reading material that iTunes did for listening material.

    And maybe the platform for delivering iText will be a new Apple iPad device, similar to the current iPhone/iPod Touch but with a much bigger screen, and therefore way, way cooler that a Kindle.

    Or maybe not.

  15. Murdoch also called Sean Hannity an “academic conservative.” All of this prompts me to wonder how he ties his shoes in the morning without stabbing himself.

  16. Murdoch is doing something very interesting here. He’s basically saying that if you cite his material while criticizing it, you have violated the license agreement for its use.

    This might be the first time in history that someone is trying to put an EULA on propaganda.

  17. In order to appease Rupert, I’ve gone ahead and made a custom Google search extension for Firefox. Using this search extension should give search results without any pesky News Corp links getting in your way.


    I’ve done about a dozen or so relevant searches and it seems to work for the most part. I can’t seem to figure out how to blacklist all of the local affiliates though.

  18. Agree you can’t kill journalism, of course. Information is power.

    News is overproduced and underconsumed? Actually, I think its precisely the opposite: Too few places are actually doing the legwork to report and break news, and too many people are “consuming” that news output for free.

    1. As far as I’m concerned, the only people who consume news for free are those who use ad blockers, those who use borrowed credentials to bypass paywalls, and those who use DVR’s to skip commercials. That doesn’t amount to very many people.

      Are you looking for proposals to curb the use of ad blockers and Tivos?

      1. Are you looking for proposals to curb the use of ad blockers and Tivos?

        I’m starting to understand. We live in different universes! In my universe, news doesn’t come from Tivos.

        1. I’m not sure what you are trying to say. I was just pointing out some ways that one could avoid ads. That is, get the news for free. Something you believe too many people are doing.

          1. I’m not sure what you are trying to say.

            Yeah, I think we’ve each weirdly ended up talking past one another somehow. Oh well.

  19. hello whirled, I’m just riffing on the scenario envisioned in the article. :-) Like it or not, Rupert might be right, in spite of everyone wanting to think he’s an idiot. You don’t hear the big flushing sound emanating from Washington? :-)

  20. Dear Mr. Murdoch,

    It has come to my attention that you wish block Google and the other “parasites” from your sites.

    Have your IT department copy the following lines in a file called “robots.txt”

    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /

    Once this file is placed in the root of each of your sites, your issue with Google and other search engines “stealing” your content will be over.

  21. I’d like to encourage Murdoch to follow his latest dream. I’d also like to encourage him to invade Russia in a winter campaign.

    Seriously, though; how much of the “crisis of journalism” is due to the abandonment of journalism by “news” organisations. When the “news” is just a reprinted press release or a rumour shamelessly lifted of a blog somewhere, and the closest they come to investigative journalism is printing press releases issued by both sides of a debate and implying that the truth lies in the middle, the solution to the crisis seems clear.

    Start being journalists again.

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