Murdoch's Times goes back to Google: please index us, just a little!

An update from Rupert Murdoch's experiment in news publishing without search-engines: the oligarch has reversed his policy regarding the Times (which went paywall in 2009), and he will now allow Google and other search tools to index the first two sentences of each article. Of course, anyone who sees a Times article in her search results will not be able to read it, unless she pays for it, or unless she is among the 130,000-odd digital subscribers to the service. What's more, any page of search results displaying an unfollowable link to a Times story will also include a followable link to another story covering the same subject.

PaidContent says that this represents "the publisher [...] having to look in new places to maintain customer acquisition momentum." Back in 2010, I spent a week on the phone with a NewsCorp exec, digging into the company's paywall numbers, concluding that they were engaged in spin intended to obscure the truth of the outcome of their experiment. However, back then, the Times was boasting 200,000 paid users (though they wouldn't say how many paid £1 for a single day's access, how many got a subscription free with their mobile phone service, and how many were regular subscribers), and now that number has declined to 130,000. Take that for whatever it's worth.

Rupert Murdoch Admits Defeat: Now Wants London Times To Appear In Search Results


    1.  as much as i am the exact opposite of a big fan of Rupert Murdoch and his friendly gang of jowly oligarchs i am very slightly sad that the print-media’s one attempt at a new distribution method / money drip has failed.

      1. Of all people, it had to be Murdoch.  It had to be the villain.
        Agreed that it’s print-media, but it can’t be filed under news-media or journalism.

  1. If Google is going to continue providing relevant search results, then I’d be annoyed if non-content from the Times showed up anywhere on the first page. Two sentences isn’t a legitimate result.

    1. It will be interesting to see what they do: as much as I’d like to see Murdoch’s rag simply fall off the internet, having search engines delist people they dislike is not a good direction.

      However, as you note, ‘2 sentences -> paywall’ is a minimally valuable search result unless there simply aren’t any alternatives not so crippled, so it would seem entirely reasonable for Google to massively ding the pagerank of material that their customers probably won’t be able to access vs. material that they probably will.

  2. That’s just great. Now I’ll have to filter the Times out of my search results along with other linkbait SEO sites.

  3. Google didn’t do anything to get The Times unindexed. The times just set everything in their robots.txt as unindexable.

    Google doesn’t need to do anything to get The Times re-indexed. There are known mechanisms (robots.txt, siteindex, etc.) to deliver indexable content to the googlebot and prevent it from indexing content. They can just use that.

    Googles pagerank is based on many, many factors. Among other things, it’s based on content or lack thereof. If The Times thinks that they will show up anywhere in the search with two sentence text bodies, good luck, that won’t happen. But they’re certainly entirely free to submit their two sentences per article to the googlebot.

    The Times hasn’t been getting any extra-special treatment from Google, and I’d imagine they’re not going to get any extra-special treatment from them now.

    Google does offer paid search results which show up on top of the searches, The Times can just buy those if they want to show up for some keywords. Again, Google already offers all the required functionality, no need for extra-special treatment.

    TL;DR The Times has no clue how Google works.

    1. But pounding on the table and blaming your demise on someone else is fun!  Don’t you agree?  And without the context you provided, who are we to know the truth and that RM is just blowing smoke to pass the blame?


    * –All right, I’m only going to say this once: ‘He’ is the singular indefinite pronoun in English (“if a person drinks too much, he will likely experience a hangover”). ‘He’ also happens to be the masculine personal pronoun.

    ‘She’ is the singular pronoun of personification in English (“if England fails to advance America’s foreign-policy ambitions, she will suffer terrible consequences”). ‘She’ also happens to be the feminine personal pronoun.

    Confusing the two exhibits not a warm-and-fuzzy concern for the inclusion of women so much as a writer’s or speaker’s ignorance. Using the feminine personal pronoun as an indefinite article is as moronic as using the masculine personal pronoun for personification. Thus the captain greets us: “Welcome to my ship. Isn’t he splendid?”

    Give it up, people. It’s not thoughtful; it’s just illiterate.

Comments are closed.