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The Cutting Of Noses
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Huffington Responds To Murdock’s Internet News Ban

By James Donahue

Consistent brooding by News Corp. giant Rupert Murdock that Internet news aggregators such as Google are linking to copyright news sources and stealing legitimate news for free world distribution has caused Google to take steps to cap access to certain news outlets.

Josh Cohen, Google’s Senior Business Product Manager announced this week that the search engine will allow publishers to limit users to viewing five articles or less a day unless they register or subscribe. It will apparently be the publisher’s choice, however.

At first blush some might think such a ban could affect the free availability of news that Internet users have enjoyed. There has been a relatively free assimilation of information and opinion surrounding just about every news event occurring in the world. Many unique news outlet web sites have gained popularity because of their editor’s abilities to capture the most important stories of the day and either report on them directly or link to the source.

Among the best known has been the Huffington Post, whose well-known editor, Arianna Huffington, this week told Murdock to quit his whining and join the new electronic field of journalism that has replaced newspapers

Making her remarks at a journalism conference in Washington, D.C., Huffington warned that “thinking that removing your content from Google will somehow keep it ‘exclusive’ shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the web and how it works.”

Indeed, the Associated Press, which copyrights all of its content, posted warnings at the end of each of its Internet published articles that prohibited other sites from quoting from, rewriting the material, or in any way using its content on other web sites. What happened was if web editors saw a story under the AP symbol they wanted to use, all they had to do was do a Google search for the same information. Instead of using the AP story, they linked to other sources.

We notice that Associated Press no longer issues this warning and news sites are back to linking to their stories.

As Huffington explained: “Any site can shut down the indexing of its content by Google any time it wants with a simple ‘disallow’ in its robots txt file. But be careful what you wish for because as soon as you do that, and start denying your content to other sites that aggregate and link back to the original source, you stand to lose a large part of your traffic overnight.”

And traffic on an Internet site is the key to drawing advertisers to the site. The Internet has such a broad, global base of potential readers that a day of traffic on even a moderately popular site can easily be counted in the thousands if not the tens of thousands.

Huffington continued: “As an experiment, Google the key terms from any interesting story currently kept behind a paywall, on the Wall Street Journal, for instance. And imagine no News Corp. source being included in the search results. You'd still get dozens and dozens of links to other sources -- including many of the biggest news sites -- writing about the story, riffing on it, quoting from it, and commenting on the key facts in it.

“So what are you going to do, try to make the case that no one should be able to talk about or write about or comment on or report on the stories you make them pay for? It's a ridiculous notion’” she said.

Huffington noted that Murdock is so strongly tied to the old newspaper styled journalism that he has failed to join the new electronic media that is replacing the old newsprint dinosaur.

“We love it when someone links to one of our posts, or excerpts a small amount and links back to us. Most sites understand the value of this and the way the link economy operates,” Huffington said.