Rupert Murdoch has been throwing off protectionist rants of late to pretty much anybody that will listen. On the one hand I admire the guy for building an empire and embracing the digital era, but on the other hand I wonder if he is losing his marbles.
In case you have not read my some previous articles about current day media moguls, I will repeat it here for you. Having a market share or a semi monopoly is a privilege not a right and this privilege/right is not exclusive, if you cannot adapt simply move on!
Rant One – Public Broadcasting
Rupert rolled out his son James on centre stage to deliver the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival and launched into the BBC with an argument whose motives were was so transparent that the majority of comment outside his own networks were a collective ‘rolling of the eyes’ .
The BBC in the UK and the ABC in Australia are pretty much the only news sources (aside from perhaps SBS) that are free from commercial indulgences and interference, and for the majority of the populations of both countries, an indispensable part of our lives.
James other argument was that the private sector left to their own devices would be more innovative as the BBC. Murdoch added that the BBC stifled innovation as it made it difficult for the private sector to compete.
Would we have seen classics such as Faulty Towers, Black Adder, Top Gear, Chaser, Frontline, Summer Heights High, Kath & Kim without public broadcasting?
I am sure you ca think of dozens more classics that have come from the BBC/ABC over the years. I also consider the news and current affairs on these networks so far above that of the commercial networks that for the past few years on Australia, I rarely ever watched a commercial station – if not for sports!
James also attacked the news reporting of these networks with “Dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market makes it incredibly difficult for journalism to flourish on the internet. Yet it is essential for the future of independent journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it,” he said.
State Sponsored? You lost me there James.
In my opinion the attack is the first in a few deliberate stages and is aimed at the public perception of these organisations.
However, Rupert and James are seriously deluded if they think this attack will have any effect on public perception. The BBC in the UK costs the taxpayer around $140 pound per annum and I am sure the Australian taxpayer is slugged even less per person. Now if you look at local content in bothy countries, it is almost exclusively provided by these networks.
Rant Two – News Aggregators
Rupert has come out and continued his attack on the search engines and news aggregators, telling them the time has come to pay for News Ltd’s content. This shows a complete lack of understanding of how actual search engines and news aggregator sites work. Here is a little primer for Rupert.
Lesson- Search Engine/News Aggregator Primer
Rupert, please sit down and listen to me, no not in my chair, on the little one to the right of you. That’s right the one that is the same color as the Fire Engines.
Once upon a time there was a web page, and on that web page there were little snippets of code called ‘meta-tags’. These ‘meta-tags’ carried snippets of content to make it easier for search engines to find a page. Most programmers gave the page a ‘title’ and a ‘description’ and clever software like www.wordpress.org actually automate that process.
The really clever people with coke bottle glasses at search engines and news aggregator websites created little things that we called ‘crawler bots’ that crawled around and around the Interweb to grab the billions of new or updated articles/pages and indexed them on their sites and allows this content to be found by the millions of users each day.
If your content got selected by the user they clicked on the link and they got to your website and read that article or page. Your website had advertising on it and you made lots of money from those advertisers. The more popular your website got, the more money you made. It was like magic!
What if I don’t want to play?
Now Rupert, this is where all the incredibly gifted programmers out there on the Interweb came in. If you did not want your content indexed in search engines or on news aggregator companies like Google had a standard method by which you could prevent the ‘crawler bots’ from indexing your sites content. This way of you were not happy, you didn’t have to have your content indexed.
Now go out and play with all of the other media moguls in the pay tv tent.
Rupert and friends perfect world would see no free public news, all bloggers discredited and everyone forced into paying for everything we read. Again after more than a digital decade we have a leader of one of the most successful companies in the world bereft of any idea on how to make the same kind of money in an almost exclusive online world.
Rupert, I like you mate, you have built one of the most successful organisations of the 20th century and for that you are in an elite minority, you have success and wealth beyond any of our wildest dreams but if bullying and protectionism is the only answer you have, then please step aside and let the next generation of digital companies take over.
Later this week I have the first of a two part series on Newspapers and how they can be saved.