Microsoft and News Corp. have been discussing an alliance that would remove the news and entertainment corporation’s content from Google’s search results and news page and move them exclusively over to the Microsoft Bing site. This is a hit or miss deal, on one side you have the need for news agencies to be paid for the content they produce and on the other side you have the problem of exclusivity with Microsoft being a limiting factor for who is able to find their content. I do not disagree that news agencies have been hurt by the ability of online content aggregators to reduce the number of viewers those agencies have to their sites – thereby reducing ad revenue. I think it is very important that we have a news media that can sustain itself while still being able to pay for reporters to do their work. If you haven’t noticed, the trend has gotten very bad recently. You can read four or five different newspapers and find the exact same stories written by the exact same AP or Reuters reporters without every finding original content written by someone who actually works with the paper. That means that the number of viewpoints you are likely to see on any given issue is extremely limited.
What the deal with Microsoft would do for the news would be to lay a foundation for search engines that create news pages to pay for the content they pull. I’ve heard it said that print media is dead and I’ve heard it said that the future of news is blogs and social media sites like Twitter that can offer unfiltered news the moment it happens. I don’t agree with that assessment at all. Blogs are not written by journalists, they don’t have to go through fact checking or through an editor. They don’t have the ability to work on a story for weeks or months in order to get it right. I would say that most of the new media sites do nothing more than offer opinions and repackage news they read from real journalists.
Like it or not, the news media does need money in order to pay for the services they provide. The deal with Microsoft would provide for that, and I think Google should pursue a similar strategy with the news agencies that appear on the Google News page.