How to kill Google (or take 10 points of search search share in six months)

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[Note: This is the biggest news of the year. ]

Team Jason,

Not sure if you read Rupert Murdoch’s comments today that Newscorp will probably block the Google search spider from indexing their news sites soon. Essentially this means that you would no longer see the Wall Street Journal in Google results. Sounds crazy huh? Suspend disbelief for a moment please because it’s actually genius and it’s actually worked already (in Korea!).

In fact, a couple of weeks ago we had this *exact* discussion on This Week in Startups. Essentially, I put forth a simple strategy for Microsoft to pursue with Bing in which they would go to content providers like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal and offer them 50% more revenue then they are currently getting from Google search referrals to be exclusively indexed in Bing.

This is 100% legal and, in fact, Google encourages people who don’t like how they do business to opt out of the Google index (they can do that because they are so huge and because they don’t like to be evil).

So, for a moment, imagine a world where Bing could say in their TV commercials:

“Want to search the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and 3,894 other newspapers and magazine?”

“Well, then don’t go to Google because they don’t have them!”

“Go to Bing, home of quality content you can trust!”

Background Videos

1. Video of me describing this strategy with Lon and Tyler two weeks
2. Video of Rupert’s comments today:

a) If 1,000 major publications pursued this strategy, would it work?
b) If you would only search the top 1,000 newspapers and magazines on Bing, would you use it? How often?
c) What is the percentage chance this will happen (I need a #), and why?

all the best,


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Disclaimer 1: Newscorp is an investor in Mahalo.
Disclaimer 2: I haven’t spoken to Mr. Murdoch about this strategy.


54 thoughts on “How to kill Google (or take 10 points of search search share in six months)

  1. Ofcourse, that would imply that Google will sit quietly watching for Microsoft to take their marketshare. Never gonna happen. Supply and demand? As the demand grows, the prices are bound to increase and I’m pretty sure Google will offer a competitive price in the market. The news papers have more to win by collaborating with Google and taking advantage of their existing market share than to bet on bing, especially when the chance that ALL the others won’t do the same.

    Also, Murdoch just wants to save the press. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about google or Bing. He just wants people to pay for the content that they’re getting online. (WSJ already asks you to, but with other news, like the nytimes, it’s simply not viable to keep offering them free of cost relying on revenue from the news paper sales. Murdoch just wants everyone to start charging for news.

  2. I would probably start to use Bing all the time. I know and
    trust information from the WSJ, Businessweek, Fox, Inc,
    Fast Company, etc and if the only place to get it was Bing?
    I would have to start using Bing, which means I would click
    on more PPC ads on their sites and view more of their display
    ads in turn generating more revenue for them.

    Plus if they make it even easier to search their magazine /
    newspaper content partners by having a filter set up already
    that allows me to search only the trusted newspapers and
    magazines articles and not get hit with blogs, I am in 100%.

    If 1,000 of the top newspapers decided to do this, then 100% I
    would use Bing daily. In fact, it might be a great strategy
    for Mahalo to start using?


  3. interesting tactic Jason.

    i watched the murdoch interview and he didnt really seem
    too prepped on what was going on.

    lets take it that what you ae hypothesising actually occurs,
    and X,000 media titles block the google bot.

    how much advertising money do you think it would cost BING
    to really get the word out and change peoples behaviours?

  4. a) It would, but 1000 organizations would never do it en masse. Google sends too much traffic and there’s too much fear about losing it. But 1000 organizations don’t need to. Newscorp will launch “front-ends” to their content that Google can index and that sit outside of their (Newscorp’s) pay wall. Google can still send them (the front end) traffic, and you can still read a summary, but you’ll have to pay for the good stuff; also, you’ll only have to pay for the “information.” Very soon, news, or “facts,” will be free (and when I say “free,” I mean ad supported), and information, i.e. the interpenetration of the world’s events through the eyes of a person who you associate with or you think is intelligent, etc., will cost money. This distinction will start the sea change with traditional media and its transformation to new media.

    b) Rarely; only when I missed something, or I need to send it to a friend. Frankly, I want my news delivered via a stream; I want it curated by someone I trust, and I want it delivered in real time, i.e. when it’s created or distributed.

    c) Zero; see my scenario above.

  5. a.) Might ruffle some feathers, but ultimately I think this is a prisoner’s dilemma. IF enough sources put their media up for sale, it could force the engines to pony up. But I think plenty of content producers will try to have it both ways — there’s a missed opportunity to not being in all engines. I think this will undo all efforts to conspire together to chip away at Google’s search share.

    B) If the top 1000 new sources were solely on another engine, but even if people use Google less, that search volume may not shift to another player (i.e. Bing). I think Twitter and RSS usage would steal a lot of that traffic. I think people’s search traffic are stickier than we realize.

    C.) 10%. It’s a long shot. It would require more coordination than I think exists in the news space. Some players may sign on because they’re dumb, some because they’re smart (and greedy), some may signon and then undermine it as in point A.

  6. One last point. My guess is that all this saber rattling by Murdoch is a negotiating gambit.

    Fox wants a special deal with Google just like the AP is rumored to have negotiated. (Not that Murdoch probably uses search or even a PC for that matter. But he’s smart enough to know how to wrangle a deal.)

    I don’t think Murdoch is as backwards thinking as everyone says he is. He’s a showman.

  7. You’re the example that actually proves this would be a waste of money for the search engine that did this!
    Look at what happened when you stopped blogging! Your content (from your email newsletter) suddenly was on more blogs then ever! Reason? As soon as you weren’t 100% publicly available, people saw that they could publish your letter and make it available for everyone. And not only could they publish it, but they weren’t competing for you for Google juice!

    The second part is, how often do you do a search of a search engine looking for content from somewhere you know you want to find it (man thats a horrible sentence). I mean I am into Aussie Rules Footy (The Real AFL). When I want AFL news, I goto one of the News sites and check it out. I also run my own blog on AFL and if I know that the News site isn’t going to be on Google, it gives me incentive to blog about their stories as I know that they won’t appear higher in Google Search results. Others would think the same and as long as those people are linking back to the News site, they are going to be more blogs with those links in them then there are now.

    (Assuming that they don’t put up the pay wall that he often talks about) Rup could be the great Link Baiter in the World by taking his sites off Google or at least putting the story out there (I think the Paywall comments are definite link baiting. I mean how many of there sites have gone from open to pay wall since he made those comments? I believe its Zero). Jason, Rup is taking your title as the worlds greatest link baiter!

  8. How are you going to convince a newspaper whose only hope of survival is building (and monetizing) an online user base that people who use Google won’t ever find their content?

    The strategy might work for a few big national papers, but I doubt a local paper will want to gamble on that.

  9. a) They may try it but it wouldn’t last for long.
    b) I wouldn’t “use” it. Other’s would use it for me. Most stories and links I get are via Twitter or Blog RSS feed.
    c) 25%

    The Why:

    What you’re talking about is search segregation. Not segregation of users but of content. It would be hard for many average users to understand why Bing can search certain content while Google can not. We all have the expectation that any web search should search the entire web. They don’t know what’s missing if they don’t know what’s missing. This is where Microsoft would have to spend major ad $$ to get everyone in the world to understand that only Bing will let you search this content. It will be very hard to re train your average user.

    The But:

    But what if Microsoft went full bore on this deal between news organizations and Bing? They get every major player on board. Do the largest ad campaign they’ve ever done (this will make the Windows 7 ad campaign look weak.)

    “Bing is the King of News search.”

    Now people WILL go to Bing when they want to search the latest stories and news. Roll in a smart Twitter search on the same page and you have the most powerful and profitable news search on the net. Google will be left with everything else on the web that isn’t as profitable.

    Imagine searching for a new top story and getting a list of major news organizations, playable in-line news videos AND top Tweets about the story from high quality Twitter users.

    Bam. The best news all in one place.

  10. i agree this could bring 10% of search share to bing but on the same note i agree that google wouldnt sit by and watch. I dont want results from wall street journal i have to buy a subscription and i dont have one. i think the dude wants to make money off of newspapers but i point to my previous blog post that they need to figure out how to monetize their traffic and stop just blocking poeople who like and want to use their traffic

  11. If this happened I would despise bing, and also push for an American law that any search engine has the right to crawl company and public pages and other media. Otherwise Google could go out now and lock everyone into their system, terrible suggestion Jason!


  12. People don’t use a search engine just for newspaper. This woudln’t be as drastic as you think. You think the average person would care? They just want fast, clean, easy to read results. I’m sure websites that aren’t as high in search results would be happy about this as well. A free boost!

  13. That’s an excellent idea, Jason; and one MS/Bing should consider.

    As for your questions:

    a)Yes; it’d be worth at least a 10% search share gain.
    b)Yes; I’d use Bing. In fact, I’d only need about the top 50-100 to do so.
    And I’d use Bing daily for this purpose.
    c)30% chance it’ll happen…’cause it makes $$$ sense for all the parties.

    And stick what’s at on their home page for (another) 10%.

  14. I think it’s a ploy for some type of revenue sharing with Google. I’ll allow you to crawl my site, if you give me a percentage of revenue you make from ads when people search for something on my site. Instead of Newscorp sitting around waiting for someone to pitch what you suggested already on TWIST, they decided to force the hand. Play with us or we’ll block you. We’ve checked our traffic sources. We know exactly how much this will hurt us. We know how many unique visitors come from google and how much money we make off that traffic. We also can estimate how much adword money you’re making on Newscorp keywords. We would rather a piece of that pie, than the money we make off of Google generated traffic.

  15. So, how could Microsoft give them 50% more revenue when they have around 1/20th
    the market share? So they would need to pay 30x more than
    google pays for ads? Is that what you are suggesting?
    Does that make any sense to anyone? Sure, if they were on
    par for market share, MS could do this, but they are not.

  16. @cak: correct (I think). But if it works, and Bing becomes say 1/6
    the size of Google, then they will only need to pay 9 times what
    Google makes newspapers earn, and so on.

  17. a) Not sure. Depends if there were free sources of news that
    meet the needs of people. The truth is: it’s hard to
    compete with a price tag of zero; and there isn’t that much
    exclusive information in these kind of publications.

    b) In that circumstance, I’d probably use Bing when I wanted
    to search those major publications. I wouldn’t use it for
    anything else though. Why? Because I’ve already evaluated
    Bing; and I found it to be a poor search engine compared
    to Google. No idea why it was so bad – this stuff is no
    longer rocket science; and, in any case, MS can afford to
    employ rocket scientists. If they don’t get it by now,
    you have to wonder if ever will. It’s the same
    story with Windows Mobile. Which part of “Windows Mobile
    isn’t very good”, don’t the Windows Mobile team get? This
    should not be difficult stuff.

    c)I’ll give a 50% chance of something along these lines
    happening. Why 50%? Because although it’s a good idea,
    I suspect the price tag of “exclusive” might be too high
    for MS to pay. So, I think there’s an equal chance that
    if these “pay to index” deals start to become the norm,
    they might well end up being non-exclusive. Of course,
    exclusive is the right kind of deal for MS to do here; but
    like I say – if they don’t “get” this stuff already…

  18. Are you people stupid? Why even use a search engine if you
    already know and trust news information from WSJ, NYTimes, Fox,
    Businessweek, etc. Just go to the news site DIRECTLY! Bookmark
    the site and then simply go to it, instead of using a search
    engine and THEN going to the site. It seems to me most people
    have no clue how to use a computer or the internet. There’s
    really no reason to use a search engine for news if you already
    know and trust specific news source.

  19. I don’t think this would work, simply because I don’t see a good way to offer “exclusive” access to a popular site on a search engine.

    Sure, you can tell Google to stop indexing your pages directly, but that doesn’t mean they become invisible on Google. How would you stop Google from indexing pages that link to the “exclusive” site? From indexing news aggregators? Social media mentions? As real-time search becomes more important, such a business model becomes less and less feasible, in my opinion.

  20. a) If 1,000 major publications pursued this strategy, would it work?

    I doubt it, there is a a reason google is a verb.

    b) If you would only search the top 1,000 newspapers and magazines on Bing, would you use it? How often?

    Rarely, if ever. I think this would only ever affect researchers and journalists tbh, the half-life of news is short.

    c) What is the percentage chance this will happen (I need a #), and why?

    2-5% (if that) There is a reason the publishing industry has gone into decline, and it’s not just the dearth of advertising. The internet and the rise of the aggregator has cut the model to ribbons, the problem is that people now consume stories as opposed to reading papers. Those that are actually interested will already have news delivered via RSS, and then there are things like twitter & the blogosphere. The idea that anyone would actually search for news seems positively old-fashioned. All that would happen would be that the papers themselves would slowly fade from view and from conciousness, if their stories are not agregated & blogged, then they would be read a lot less. Their voice, however distinctive, would eventually be lost to the breeze.

    You Jason, more than most must understand the disruptive nature of technology, you even ask for people to write reviews on itunes, knowing that the more comments something gets the more likley it will to be listened too. Simply getting people to read and/or listen is 80% of the effort. The barrier to entry here is low, if you place barriers in the path of people who want your content, they’ll get the same news and content elsewhere, it’s not like there is a shortage of news & opinion, regardless of your politics. Any attempt to create scarcity where none exists will simply be bypassed or ignored, be that via a pay wall or by a google death sentance.

  21. There’s nothing all that unique about WSJ content. They have very few stories that are not available from many other sources. If their content disappears from Google, no one is going to miss it.
    If I’m really loyal to WSJ content, I’ll subscribe and ensure I get it.

  22. I would love it if the big news organizations tried this. Because it would only pave the way for smaller news organizations, to flourish.
    Have you ever heard of Knight Ridder? Let’s get real, these big boys hardly have any journalists anyways.
    They get all their content from news services, and their only true contribution is their editorials, which in my opinion are quite lacking to say the least. This kind of a move will kill them, we’ll still get our news and they will be competing with free. Good riddance.

  23. According to the WSJ article below, search engine market share
    is about 60% Google / 20% Yahoo / 15% Bing / 5% Misc.

    In what universe does it make sense to take 75% less traffic
    for 50% more money? And if I’m a top 1000 website, that
    million-dollar incentive will evaporate in no time.

    I vote no deal.

    I also agree with some of the people above in that people go
    to search engines because they don’t know where to look.
    If I want to read the WSJ specifically, I’ll go to
    If I need to search for how much market share each search engine
    has, I’ll go to Google. (because if it’s on the internet,
    it’s true)

    (WSJ Article found via Google:

  24. For months now i’ve been writing the New York Times, News corp and everyone else I could think of about a new advertising concept that I came up with that I believe would not only save the newspaper and magazine industry but also tackle the Internet “toll Booth” question and tackle google head on. Do you think that someone out there cares. Havent recieved one responce. My next move is to contact my smaller local paper, The patriot ledger and sell them on the “New Concept” if I can get my foot in the door . The N.A.A. who I thought would like to take a peak nver responded. I guess the mindset is you have to be a Big player in the game to have the answers. Somestimes you have to look just outside the box…to get back in. There loss.

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