Google's Lesson Learned: Good News for Bing?
But Murdoch doesn't really care about that. Google float-ins who arrive at the WSJ site are like ghosts — they can't be monetized because WSJ doesn't know anything about them. What Murdoch wants is subscribers, subscribers, subscribers – something Google can't guarantee them.
Page views don't mean much to Murdoch if he doesn't know anything about those doing the viewing. It's easier to tailor ads to users whose behavior you have analyzed. Google knows this better than anyone and has been monetizing the heck out of you and me for years.
As Murdoch said recently in an interview with his Sky News Australia service about Google users who wind up at News Corp. sites: "They don't suddenly become loyal readers of our content ... We'd rather have fewer people coming to our Web site but paying."
The traffic Google brings into the WSJ site is not as high as one might think. Web site market share tracker Hitwise reports that the site has 25 percent of its traffic come through Google. A related story in Silicon Alley Insider calculates that losing that traffic would only cost WSJ approximately $12 million.
Could Microsoft pick up that 12 million tab to have exclusive rights to News Corp. content? Right now, Microsoft is saying no.
And that's wise. Microsoft should not just throw huge sums of money at the problem. It would look like a desperate bid to grab market share, and it's also a gamble because more people go to search engines to look up digital cameras and restaurants than for news stories.
But the Google/Murdoch scrap does present an opportunity for Bing to be the anti-Google, and cultivate shared ad revenue deals with publishers. Microsoft could also share general user data with publishers so they can analyze the behavior of readers coming from Bing. Publishers don't see the value in traffic coming from search engines. Bing could change that perception and both parties could benefit financially by sharing revenue.
Microsoft is deeply invested in search. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said that he plans to spend $5.5 to $11 billion on Bing over the next five years. It would be a mistake to use that cash to simply buy content. A smarter way to go is to invest in revenue-based deals with publishers, helping them make sense of search traffic and helping them make money from it.
In other words, be better at something than Google.