The World from Berlin 'Bing Has Little Chance against Google'

In the world of search, Microsoft's Bing search engine is the David to Google's Goliath. Now Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is hoping to be the pebble that brings the giant down by only offering its content via the Microsoft site. German commentators are skeptical about the new alliance's chances.
The Google homepage.

The Google homepage.

Foto: JOEL SAGET/ AFP

It's an interesting twist of fate that a company that was fined €899 million ($1.34 billion) by the European Union for violating competition laws is now desperately fighting for market share. Despite re-launching its search engine as Bing last May, Microsoft has yet to make much headway against the current king of Internet search, Google.

In its battle, Microsoft has now found an unlikely ally in Rupert Murdoch. The news mogul is making moves that would see news content created by his media empire , News Corp. -- which includes the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London and the Fox network -- blocking searches done on Google, but being found by Bing.

Murdoch, the 78-year-old tycoon behind the world's second-largest media empire, has accused Google of stealing his ad revenues. By blocking Google searches, News Corp. content would only be available via a Bing search or by going directly to the outlet's Web site. It's a win-win for both companies: Microsoft can claim some of Google's market share, while Murdoch gets revenue for his articles.

According to London's Financial Times, quoting a source close to the closed-door talks, Murdoch isn't the only one being wooed by the software giant. Microsoft has also apparently approached other media giants, including Germany's Axel Springer AG. Its chief executive, Mathias Döpfner, has also said that he would like Internet readers to get used to paying for online content.

Commentators writing in the Tuesday edition of German newspapers were skeptical about the plan's chances of success and put forward their own ideas about how media companies can save their skins.

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

"It's definitely more advantageous for Microsoft. More than 90 percent of computers worldwide still run Windows as their operating system, but in other areas, like smart phones, online music sales and netbooks, Microsoft is under pressure. Bing has been well-received, but it has little chance against the ubiquitous Google. Murdoch's content could at least help it gain a little ground."

"It has yet to become apparent, however, how Murdoch plans to earn money from the Internet. Google can easily do without Murdoch. And those faithful followers who look for Murdoch's links on Bing will soon be standing in front of closed doors. The portals of the future will come with a cover charge. But what looks more promising are business models from other publishers who plan to charge for extra services and exclusive content. Payment would be made via the Web applications known as 'apps'  or -- as Axel Springer's chief lobbyist, Christoph Keese, has suggested -- via Google. He would rather embrace the monster than go under."

The Financial Times Deutschland agrees that Murdoch is taking the bigger risk:

"For News Corp., there is far more at stake. Indeed, the media concern has made it its goal not to accept the free-of-charge culture on the Internet any longer. However, up until now, Murdoch has been leading the attack with sharp comments about Google's supposed rampant thievery. Even for News Corp., there are still a lot of catches to introducing paid content on the Internet. For this reason, the urge to join forces with a strong partner is completely understandable. However, the alliance can only pose a credible threat to Google if other media corporations join in. Otherwise, the move will only hurt News Corp. in the short term, as its media networks will no longer be found via Google searches. That problem would only be worsened if, at the same time, Murdoch started requiring users to pay for content."

"The example of Axel Springer illustrates just how naïve it is to imagine it is possible to find allies against Google within the media industry. Springer may be the company that wants to go furthest with the paid-content model in Germany. However, the company's CEO, Mathias Döpfner, does not want to risk an open confrontation with Google because many users only come to Springer Web sites via the search engine. This is precisely the reason why other media companies also want to avoid open conflict with Google."

"Instead of choosing escalation, as Murdoch has done, it would be much more sensible for media companies to negotiate ground rules with the Internet giant regarding how their content can be used. But for that to happen, Google must also be willing to make concessions to the publishing companies -- and to share advertising revenue with them."

-- Sabine Devins

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