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Walling Off Media Content: Face, Meet Nose


Jon Fine (Business Week) Putting The Screws To Google. What if 2006 is the year big media players take aim at Google’s (GOOG ) kneecaps? No, not with more lawsuits; the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers — on behalf, in part, of BusinessWeek’s parent company, The McGraw-Hill Companies (MHP ) — and Agence France-Presse have already sued the search behemoth. Rather, picture this: Walt Disney (DIS ), News Corp. (NWS ), NBC Universal, and The New York Times (NYT ), in an odd tableau of unity, join together and say: “We are the founding members of the Content Consortium. Next month we launch our free, searchable Web site, which no outside search engines can access.” (A simple bit of code is all it takes to bar all or some major search engines from accessing a site.) “From now on we’ll make our stuff available and sell ads around it and the searches for it, but only on our terms. Who else wants to join us? Membership’s free.”

I kind of hope they do this, even though I think it’s a foolish idea. There’s be a great deal of other journalism and “content” available to readers, listeners and viewers — some of it of high quality indeed.

New kinds of discovery, recommendation and reputation systems are emerging for online material. It’s likely that people who want to learn about the news will find enough to be happy even without the major media’s full stories being available.

Moreover, one immediate result of the new walled garden would be this: a collection of digests, created by people who care about the topics, telling us enough of what they’ve said that we might not care enough to go to the original source.

It’s easy to sympathize with old media’s desire to recapture some of the value that Google is taking away through commodification But this is the classic cutting off the nose to spite your face.

Update: Jeff Jarvis says, sarcastically, “Beware the Googeyman” — read it.

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