Microsoft’s Monopoly on News Online

I couldn’t believe one of the headlines in today’s NY Times: “News Corp. Weighs an Exclusive Alliance With Bing.” I originally thought that this was not what the title of the article meant, and there must be some mistake. However, Microsoft really has pitched an offer to the News Corporation controlled by Rupert Murdoch that would give Microsoft exclusive rights to index the news corporations daily reports.

This would be an attractive offer to most news agencies, most of which have been loosing money from customers and advertisers ever since the Internet took off. What if they only made their content available to a single search engine, or if they moved to a pay-per-index system (Microsoft, Google, and so forth would have to pay to index their content)? What ramifications would this have?

This sounds an awful lot like a monopoly if Microsoft’s Bing would be the only business able to index the News Corporation’s content. The definition of a monopoly given by says it is,

“A situation in which a single company or group owns all or nearly all of the market for a given type of product or service. By definition, monopoly is characterized by an absence of competition – which often results in high prices and inferior products.”

This agreement sounds like a monopoly to me. I’m not sure where other vendors like Lexis-Nexis, which also indexes news content, would fall under this agreement. Would they also be excluded?

I’m surprised that the News Corporation is even considering this tactic since it seems contrary to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Specifically, the preamble which states that, “Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.” Would placing an electronic barrier (only being available to search through BING) be in the best interests of its readers and under the Professional Journalists Code of Ethics?

Here are some other problems with this arrangement:
– There would essentially be no competition between vendors, and could potentially lead to a decline in quality of information.
– How would this affect consumers? It would probably alienate some readers and advertisers, specifically those who may not use BING, but to what extent? Would this arrangement ultimately loose business to competitors and essentially become financially dependent in time on Microsoft?
– Would this really be financially beneficial to the Murdock News Corporation? Could this backfire and bring the downfall of Murdock News Corporation? Could this backfire on Microsoft and look like a way to stifle competition from Google (which it is doing)? How might this be perceived from users who basically want free information (plus free music and movies…)?
– Would other news corporations follow suit and go exclusively to rival search engines? If this would be the case, we would essentially loose a huge chunk of informational exchange and essentially miss one of the basic
– Would Twitter and other new social technologies fill in the void that the Murdock News Corporation would leave?
– How might this affect future technology; should one search engine be preferable to another? Will new technology be geared towards one search engine or another?

Read original NY Times article…


About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on November 24, 2009, in Consumerism, Google, Libraries, Microsoft and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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