How Murdoch Can Really Hurt Google And Shift The Balance Of Power In Search

I’ve mostly been a spectator in this whole Rupert Murdoch de-indexing his news sites from Google circus. First because I didn’t really believe he even knew what he was talking about (or how much traffic he’d lose), and more recently because Erick Schonfeld took the story here at TechCrunch.

But suddenly this is a fascinating story to me for a bunch of reasons. This may be less about the self destruction of traditional journalism and more about the search wars.

Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis, who used to work for Murdoch’s Digital Chief Jonathan Miller when the two were at AOL, posted a video last week (embedded below) with a simple suggestion: Not only should Murdoch de-index from Google, but he should get Bing to pay him for the exclusive right to index it. TechCrunch Europe’s Mike Butcher has been sniffing down a similar trail.

If other media companies joined Murdoch Google could actually find itself in a very difficult position, where Bing had content that Google didn’t. If you knew that Wall Street Journal and, say, New York TImes content was only in Bing search results, mainstream search users would suddenly have a big reason to go to Bing.

This would shift the balance of power away from search engines and to the content sites – if they could pull it off. Bidding wars over rights to index content would conceivably break out between Google and Microsoft, just as bidding wars have broken out in the past over the right to serve search ads into third party publishing sites.

If Murdoch is going to go through with this de-indexing Mexican standoff thing, he might as well do it the right way and drive the fear of God into Google. As a spectator, I’ll enjoy watching the fireworks.

Of course there’s another sideshow going on here as well – the renegotiation of the MySpace search deal with Google that ends next year. That deal brings in $300 million a year to News Corp., and it’s clear Google is done paying that much money.