20th Century faux pas

Published

An interesting development in the future of news media emerged this month, when Rupert Murdoch not only made further threats to charge for all online content on The Sunday Times’ website, but also declared that he would have all News International material removed from Google search results, insisting that displaying the copy from his web pages in such a way amounted to little more than wholesale theft.

It’s unfortunate that the announcement happened to coincide with The Times’ decision to plagiarise in its entirety an obituary piece of the actor Edward Woodward written by Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead. Although The Times have since printed a clarification, their original publication of the article — which made out that Wright was a commissioned commentator for the newspaper — took place without its author even being notified.

All of this merely demonstrates — other than that apparently, it’s one rule for Murdoch; another for Google — the desperate measures to which newspapers are having to resort in the search for revenue. However, quite what the media tycoon hopes to achieve by singling his own publications out for such treatment is something of a mystery.

Despite his obvious talents for self-promotion, when it comes to the Internet, Murdoch’s decisions have always betrayed shown him to be something of a novice. He bought Myspace when it was at its most crazily-overinflated valuation, and then watched the money simply disappear while Facebook and Twitter took the lead. If he takes The Sunday Times’ the same way, he will simply turn the publication into expensive lesson in the importance of gauging the public’s receptivity to paying for online news. When so much else is available for free — and The Sunday Times’ website not being particularly special — it’s hard to believe the move will be anything other than a disaster.