Newscorp: Break up Google

by Jim March 14, 2019

In a classic case of the old guard trying to defend its long-held grip on an industry, News Corp has appealed to the government to break up Google as they have become too powerful. Pot. Kettle. Black. While the fear of being outmuscled by a business rival is understandable, it is also confusing and misguided as News Corp not only makes money from Google but maybe should learn some lessons in adaptation.

What I learned

  • News Corp is displaying hypocrisy at its finest
  • News Corp owns an agency that sells Google AdWords. What the?
  • Do Google really abuse their advertisers?
  • Are you paying too much per click?
  • Paywall modelling is restrictive
  • Maybe News Corp should alter their structure


Hey. Welcome back Rankers. Here’s a funny story for you today. I had to go with this one. I had a bunch of other stuff to do … Sorry, I think it was Stephan Winterburg. I was going to talk to you about your site, and do a bit of a review based on some John Mueller conversations you were having. However, this is a funny story. News Corp has called on the breaking up of Google because they’re too powerful. I mean, everyone immediately goes, “That’s pot calling the kettle black,” but forget about that for the moment. Forget what a monolith Google is because it’s big. It’s a big tech giant, and let’s make no mistake. Does it have too much power? I reckon that’s a conversation worth having.

Seismic Shift
But News Corp … Obviously have been a dominant media player for many years, and the thing that gets me about this story, is the sheer stupidity of it. I don’t get it. I don’t … What are they trying to do? Because, here’s the thing. News Corp essentially has called for the breaking up of the Google publishing arm and the advertising arm. They’ve got the advertising revenue separate so third parties can get involved. Who would they be, News Corp? Here’s the thing. News Corp already sell Google ads. They have an agency, who reportedly has, I think from memory … Yes, a bat-phone to Google and Facebook. That’s a News Corporation agency, and these, the employees of that agency must be going, “What the hell?” because further into the story, they … I can’t bring you a News Limited story, a News Corp story, because they’re all behind paywalls. Right?

I’ll take this back a step. Come back to these poor employees of the agency. Their bosses have just thrown in the muck. But back in 2009, Rupert Murdoch was complaining about Google stealing his content. I did a series of stories on it back then. It’s just ridiculous because all you had to do was either use robot.txt, disallow bots done, or you could just put in noindex on the pages that you didn’t want Google to index.

Now, when you go and have a look at the index today, a lot of the News Limited properties don’t have as many pages, anywhere near as many pages as some of the other publishers because everything’s behind a paywall. Now, a lot of the submissions, Rupert Murdoch was complaining about Google stealing their content, right? Then, in one of the submissions … This is from the AFR, which is a Fairfax and not News Limited, because it can’t … Actually Fairfax, the Australian Financial Review, and the paywall only applies to people seemingly who use JavaScript, so I’ll let you work that one out. But, the ACCC’s preliminary report found that the use of snippets did not adversely affect click-through rate, but News Corp disagreed, saying, “ACCC should increase regulation, which could include requiring digital platforms to compensate publishers for the use of their content.” And it’s like, Why? What makes you think your content is worthy, News Corp? That’s what we say to everybody. That’s what we say … Talk about SEO. Why do you think you need to be ranked? Why do you think Google needs to rank you? What’s so good about you? At the moment, why would they rank you? You don’t want them to rank you because they’re stealing your content, but you want them to pay for that content, but do you want the traffic?

I mean, back to Google’s … News Corps own agency that sells Google Ads … Their employees must be going, “What the hell?” Because one of the things they’ve said in this story is, “Google enjoys overwhelming market power in both online search and ad tech services and is abusing its dominant position to the detriment of consumers, advertisers, and publishers.” Well, no. Partly, yes, they are dominant, definitely dominant … But are they abusing advertisers?

Measure Your Return on Ad Spend
I don’t know any advertisers that feel abused. Maybe a lot of them will say, “Okay, well we’re paying too much per click.” Well, that’s because you’re not measuring it properly. Okay? If you think you’re paying too much per click, then don’t do those ads. Look at your returns on your ad spend, measure that. Start to measure that. If you’re getting 1300 percent return on ad spend, try getting that out of a newspaper. That’s not going to happen. News Corp have built up a huge empire globally. Rant. And it’s based on the back of restriction of free trade because all of these publishers and broadcasters have to buy licences from the government, and that restricts the entrance into the field. You’ve got this restrictive field, where you don’t have much competition at all. You never did until we got the Internet, Rupert Murdoch, and that’s when you’ve got competition, and now, you’re not making as much money because you’re selling Google ads. Your own ads suck. Even if you’re doing display advertising on your own property, you’ve got a limited amount of people because you’re trying to keep Google out, and you’re putting everyone behind a paywall, and you’re paying to see the ads. It’s crazy. It’s old school thinking. It’s old media thinking.

Now, yes, there needs to be a conversation about the dominant power of big tech and the about of data they have. But if you’re worried about those, go and use other search engines, like I’ll say that again. That’s fun to say actually. If you go and use that search engine, you will find quite often you’re getting different results. I’m at the point now, where some of the Google personalisation, where I think, I don’t know if that’s helping because I’m not discovering new things. I’m only seeing things that the algorithm thinks are suitable to me. That’s why I think it’s very healthy to go out and use other search engines. Bing, if you want to, but if you believe Google, they copied them anyway. Use other social networks, go and have a look at or some of those, the ones that are open source social networks who’re connecting on the blockchain, all these other things. If you’re concerned about your privacy, learn about it, and do something about it.

But for big media, old media, tech publishing company like News Corp to come out and say they need to break up Google because it’s affecting publishers … I used to sell newspaper advertising. Okay? I now sell digital advertising. I can tell you which works better, and it ain’t the newspaper advertising.

This is free market, right? This is what happens when you build a product … And this is the essential nature of the internet. As a better product comes along, people use it. That’s what happened with Google. Build a better product. Get more people using it. Start a movement. But to say that one old media company should be breaking, should come out and say, “Break up the old one.” I think we should break them all up and maybe while you’re at it, because they’re saying that it affects journalism because there’s not much publishing around.

Have you watched the journalists on Twitter? Most of them are just arguing with one another. Arguing left and right. It’s like “Oh. Forget it. I’m not even interested. I’m not even going to find my own news. I’m not interested in your bickering.”

This has come about because the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission has set up an inquiry about the market dominance of these big digital players, rightly so. Okay. That’s been ongoing since last year, and this is the News Corp submission, which I find hilarious. Hopefully that’s helpful, and we will see you next week. Thanks so much everyone. Bye.

Jim’s been here for a while, you know who he is.

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