23 November 2009 | Tanya Goodin

Bing + News Corp < Trust?

As Bing and News Corporation plot to make up the ground they conceded when neither took the internet seriously, does today’s news that they are eyeing a pact do them any favours?

Their concerns are well founded. Murdoch has recently been telling anyone that would listen that, as a reaction to flagging newspaper sales and falling advertising revenues, his publications intend to start charging for content. Bing has cost Microsoft so much money that they are willing to spend further sums to try and level the playing field that is currently weighted so heavily in Google’s favour.

The common denominator here is money. Both brands are willing to pay for what they want but would this deal really help them fulfil their ambitions?

Taking News Corp first, it seems that whilst they will receive more revenues for their content from Bing, it will ultimately lead to fewer visitors. As their content is not being indexed by Google so they will not appear in their search results. As Google owns the vast majority of the search market does this mean that they will not get as much exposure?

Conversely, more and more people are using Twitter to search for news these days, so perhaps this is only a short term effect and in the longer term it may not inhibit visitor traffic to a significant level.

The benefit of the deal to Bing seems hazier and quite short-sighted. If they can pay
News Corp to remove their content from Google, well that leaves Google with5
incomplete search results. Google’s search engine success is not founded
on its user experience or interface, it is primarily down to the quality of its
search results
. They are the most complete, relevant and useful. Bing’s
proposed deal wounds the Google brand as its search results would then be incomplete. Financially however this would have a negligible direct effect on Google, with only 5% of the top 10 results (in Germany) coming from news organisations.

Indirectly, if users lose confidence and faith in Google’s results then that
could lead to an erosion of their traffic volumes to sites such as Twitter and other real-time search properties.

So, the issue comes down to trust, the force that all web properties in the 2.0 era should be driven by. That’s user trust and if users begin to understand that Google’s search results are incomplete or that Bing’s results are influenced by payments to content providers that can only damage the search landscape.  Just have a look at what happened to Google in China or read Ofcom’s report which highlights common misunderstandings on the internet.

The report found that a third of children think that search engines rank their results in order of truthfulness. Bing will ignore this at their peril. This is the demographic that will switch their allegiance and visits to another brand on a whim and when they begin to understand that Bing are influencing their search result rankings due to commercial deals, so the sword that could inflict a short term wound on Google may be turned on them with a more fatal result.

Tanya Goodin

Tanya Goodin

Founder of Tamar

  • http://www.ipodrepublic.com Daniel

    Nice post! I might have misunderstood Murdochs plans to charge for all the content on his news sites, but if that is the case – how many on Twitter would be bothered to pay for an article they got a link to in a tweet? My view would be very few.

    In fact what we might be getting are news intermediaries that will “borrow” paid for content from his news sites and offering it for free (ad revenue) through the likes of Google News. The value to NewsCorp sites that will be accredited with correct links to the content will be minimal, as those links won’t count for much since they are removing themselves from Google, very few will follow the links and pay for the content, so we are left with some happy paid intermediaries, operating in what might be a grey zone of the market.

    The true winner will still be the user, as the content will still be available for free through your favorite search engine.

    • Jeremy

      As we know, high rankings for your web pages take a while to achieve and there is a cumulative effect in building the link equity in a page. News Corp’s web properties will inevitably not be linked to in the way they do now to any significant, or rank-changing levels. Whilst Mr Murdoch might respond that it’s not relevant as he doesn’t want his web pages appearing in Google’s search results anyway, should this position change in the future then the top rankings that he enjoys now can not just be switched back on.

      Additionally, a large number of his web properties have ‘authority’ status in Google’s eyes. This value can not be underestaimted and I can’t imagine that Google will welcome Murdoch’s sites back with open arms should he change his mind and stragegy in the future. He certainly needs Google far more than Google needs him. How refreshing!