I do not run News Corp, I do not make any decisions for them, I do not know what their balance sheets look like, but what is important is that according to reports on the Inquistr and on CNN, it looks like Rupert Murdoch is seriously thinking about how to squeeze the last amount of money out of their intellectual property that they can. The question is, will people pay for it, and what would a lawsuit prove when technologically it is super simple to keep Yahoo and Google out of News Corp servers?
Even Google has stated how to keep their search bot off their network by using robots.txt. This is a really basic text file that has been around for years at this point. Most web site administrators know it exists, most well behaved network spiders will obey the rules in robots.txt, a lawsuit against Google, and Yahoo or indeed anyone else who runs and owns a web spider (and programmed it to obey robots.txt files) would pass the web site by and not include it in their index. The threat of a lawsuit seems like taking out a small nuclear war head for something that should take about 5 minutes of time for a web system administrator to do. This could be one of the shortest court cases in history, and could end up providing more entertainment for technologists than XKCD.
My thoughts on how the trial would go in under 2 minutes:
Judge: Google, Yahoo, why do you keep on stealing News Corps Content?
Google/Yahoo: They didn’t tell us not to.
Judge: Eh? That is what this lawsuit is all about, they are telling you now.
Google/Yahoo: All News Corp had to do was put a small file on their servers which could tell us what we could scan and what we could not scan. We have been telling them this for at least a year, and it is common knowledge amongst most competent web server owners.
News Corp: Objection your honor, our web server operators are competent.
Judge: Overruled, so one file, News Corp – make the file Google/Yahoo needs you to make, here is a monster fine for wasting our time. Adjourned, time for lunch, bailiff kick these folks in the butt.
That is about all it would take to make the point, less than one minute, call it a day, everyone goes away happy. But what is going to be a natural consequence of this fall out is what happens when Google, Yahoo, MSN and other web servers stop indexing them. Traffic is going to fall off, traffic is going to tank, because people are still going to go to Google and Yahoo news first, and if News Corp is not there, no one will come to a News Corp site because for all intents and purposes it will have gone dark. This is going to look like the case of Sun suing Microsoft to remove Java from their operating system, and then six months later Sun sues Microsoft again to get Java back on the Microsoft platform.
Then there is the idea of reevaluating the relationship with the Kindle in favor of pitting Sony against Amazon and seeing who coughs over the better deal. This is like a kid pitting each parent against each other. At least with Apple ITunes there is no real viable alternative for this business method to be used, so RIAA and MPAA have to walk carefully or slaughter their business altogether. This is not true in what is rapidly becoming the next big thing, ebook readers that are network connected. The question is will this tactic work. Kindle is really about books, and kindle has hundreds of thousands of titles, blogs, and other material for folks. Sony not so much, while it would be good for Sony to get News Corp as an anchor, Sony’s track record with ebook readers is not so good. News Corp could end up playing with a diminished audience, and losing tons of revenue by not working with both companies and keeping the content flowing.
What makes this interesting to me is that while I might have a simple solution, it seems that the news industry is going to have to learn the hard way that the world has changed. This is ok, some people need to learn the hard way that the fundamental models of entertainment, news, and content have changed, and they are not like they were 10 years ago. Putting the digital genie back in the bottle is not going to happen, what is unfortunate is that over the last decade, since Napster and the dawn of the general public internet, major entertainment and news organizations did not see this as an opportunity, rather they have taken this as a threat. In the business SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) table, the world is needlessly skewed in the threat area rather than in the opportunity area. It will take a while, but in the mean time, there are going to continue to be huge changes coming, and people are going to go the path of least resistance. People will still use Google and Yahoo news, the question is will our older institutions stay there, or fade into oblivion to be replaced by new institutions that use the internet and the link economy the way it has developed.
(Cross-posted @ TechWag)