You got to hand it to Mr Murdoch. He is a businessman through and through. Never one to make fake threat.
A while ago I was challenging him to take his content off Google. It appears he certainly had that in mind. Reports are coming in that Murdoch is exploring a deal to take Murdoch’s news site off Google. Good luck to him.
It might be that this is just a rumour to “soften Google up” for any potential deal. It might just be a real deal in the working. Reports simply says that the deal is about Murdoch will be paid to take content off Google, not an exclusive deal to have content available only through Microsoft’s search engine. That sounds a bit strange to me. We all know that exclusivity deals are legal. However, I do not think a deal specifically to exclude a competitor is legal. I doubt Reuters will make a mistake by calling an exclusive deal to Microsoft a deal to exclude Google.
I can see the advantage to Microsoft for excluding Google and Google alone, i.e., lower fees. However, I can see problems ahead. If Google judge it worthwhile, I can see Google suing Microsoft and Murdoch to get the deal declared illegal. That is when things get interesting. That lawsuit does not necessarily need to run to its logical conclusion. Deals can be made to settle the lawsuit. This type of lawsuits are less about the principle, more about business positioning for a better deal. In fact, this might be what Murdoch wants in the first place.
A deal to specifically exclude Google is also a potential suicide for Murdoch. If he do, he is putting all his eggs in a basket for a reasonably long time. What if the deal did not deliver what he wants? He will be locked in to a bad deal for a considerable time. Having said that, if I can see it, Murdoch can. He is smarter, much smarter than me. His lawyer might put in some get out clause into the deal.
What I think it is possible that a group will be setup to license the content. Microsoft will join now. Google can join later if they want.
The deal negotiation, if true, means I have to give it to Microsoft for stopping at nothing to improve its share of search. Who knows, this might just be the ticket.
Will this soften up Google for any potential deal? I do not know. What I know is it definitely gets Google attention, if Google haven’t been paying attention to what Murdoch said already. I can imagine people in Google searching through the records working out how much losing Murdoch’s sites will mean to Google. Murdoch obviously think it can be a big enough dent, but only Google will know whether it is true.
On the broader picture, this looks like an attempt to fragment the internet into walled gardens. For this reason alone, I hope this type of deals will turn out to be not worthwhile for all the participants.