Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

While Microsoft Is Talking to Publishers, Paying Up to "Rent" Content for Bing to Thwart Google Is Unlikely

While it might be a dream of publishers–hard hit by the digital tsunami and blaming Google for the crisis–Microsoft is not likely to fork over the big bucks they’d need for exclusive indexing of their content.

“Microsoft isn’t the monopoly guy anymore,” joked one source close to ongoing talks between Microsoft and publishers, especially News Corp. (NWS) and Associated Press. “So, it’s not going to be the bank for publishers.”

While a spate of reports has Microsoft (MSFT) execs girding the globe offering gobs of cash to content companies to block Google (GOOG) and favor its Bing search service, sources close to the situation caution that it is extremely unlikely that the software giant would pay giant sums for that pricey privilege, which many inside the company think will not help it gain much search share.

“While there is a lot of mutual interest, it’s doubtful Microsoft is going to pay to ‘rent’ a corpus of content that it does not own,” said one source close to the situation. “The economics are not there for anyone.”

Nonetheless, that has not stopped AP and News Corp. from aggressive public agitating recently about how their content has been treated online, accusing Google of a wide range of crimes against them and threatening to “de-index” their content from the search giant.

For example, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch–who has been on what seems like a televised campaign against the search giant–accused Google of pilfering stories from his publishing properties.

Presumably, by yanking Google’s access to them and offering them to Microsoft, balance will be restored in The Force.

Force Be With You

Except, not so fast, since such a deal would end up costing Microsoft a fortune, which is why several sources said its execs don’t seem to be keen on doing that without getting a lot in return.

The swirl of chatter about it, these sources said, is coming from publishers–who initiated the very early-stage talks–who are keen on playing Microsoft and Google against each other in hopes the warring tech titans will loosen their fat wallets to battle each other.

News Corp., for instance, has been looking for ways to replace the three-year, $900 million (or less) Google/MySpace search deal that expires next year. The publisher has been talking to Microsoft about some sort of exclusivity since this summer, but News Corp. executives also say they’re happy to work with Google if Google is willing to pay up. But what would either company really be buying?

Another source used YouTube as an example of Google getting a mass of videos, when it paid $1.65 billion in 2006 for the online video company.

“That made sense, since Google got all that content to use,” said the source. “But it is hard to see publishers getting the advertising economics and revenue they want from Microsoft for lending their content out, even exclusively.”

Still a third source noted that the only way such a deal could be envisioned by Microsoft is if a majority of publishers was able to band together to block Google from indexing their sites.

“If it was everyone, that might become interesting,” said the source. “But even that has issues, since Microsoft is not interested in having exclusive news for a temporary period of time by overpaying for it.”

Added the source, noting how much money Microsoft has lost in its online efforts so far:

“It’s essentially a marketing expense, and there are a lot better ways to spend that money to win market share than giving it to publishers.”

(Full disclosure: News Corp. owns Dow Jones, which owns this site.)

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald