WSJ, Google, AP: Wage Aggregation Battle 4

Robert Thomson discusses his boss, Rupert Murdoch

We’ve noted recently that Robert Thomson, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, is becoming more aggressive with his comments against aggregators (specifically Google), seemingly by the day.

On Monday, Thomson was quoted in in the Australian (also a News Corp. publication), during a visit to his homeland, as saying:

“Companies that aggregate mainstream media content without paying a fee are the parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet” and will soon be challenged.”

However, as Gawker points out today, All Things Digital (A News Corp. digital property) is doing the very things that Thomson has been crying foul over.

Andy Baio over at Waxy has the full back-story. ATD has been aggregating content within their “Voices” section, as Kara Swisher of ATD explains in the interview with Baio:

“Kara confirmed that the Voices section is a mix of original content, third-party linking, and syndicated material from other Dow-owned properties. The Voices section is hand-picked daily by the editorial staff selecting “four or five items every day that we think are terrific, that we want readers to read.”

Within the interview Kara notes that the bloggers and writers they are aggregating haven’t complained at all. In fact, several, including Harry McCracken, noted in the comments section of Baio’s post that they were happy to be publicized within All Things Digital. So why you ask can’t News Corp. be as happy as these bloggers that Google is publicizing their content for free?

Most of their anger falls on the print advertising industry collapsing and ad networks reducing online  ad prices by the day. In talking to media insiders, what the Wall Street Journal is really gunning for is a better deal from Google around the paywall content they are aggregating. As many other folks have pontificated this week, the Journal is never going to completely shut out Google search bots. As Danny Sullivan noted very nicely, if they wanted to keep out of Google, it’d be this easy:

“Let me help you with that, Rupert. I’m going to save you all those potential legal fees plus needing to even speak further about the evil of the Big G with two simple lines. Get your tech person to change your robots.txt file to say this:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /

Done. Do that, you’re outta Google. All your pages will be removed, and you needn’t worry about Google listing the Wall St. Journal at all.”

In terms of the ATD case where the Journal is playing the part of aggregator, insiders doubt Murdoch and others at flagship News Corp. properties have insight into All Things Digital’s aggregating philosophy. After all, Swisher and Mossberg own a good piece of the property anyways. The executive team at the Journal is focused on bigger things, like subscriptions.

Meanwhile, the Journal and AP’s real battle will continue to play out with Google. They need Google more than Google needs them, despite the moat it lays around their content. The only thing they can hope, and what they are campaigning very publicly for, is a bigger slice of the pie.

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