Pull Articles from Google, Lose Traffic

The newspaper “de-indexing” movement is gaining steam it would appear. This is partly an irrational “revenge” play by newspaper publishers who blame Google for their own inability to really adapt to a culture in transition. Wounded and reeling from subscriber and ad revenue losses they’re “striking back.”

There are now several publishers in league with Murdoch & Co. considering pulling their content from Google (we’ll see if it actually happens).

I’m mostly taking the day off but I’ll say this . . .

The strategy will utterly fail. Google will not be hurt, Bing will not see a great uptick in traffic (if it’s the exclusive partner) and the newspapers will lose visibility, page views and ad revenues as a consequence. Contrary to their fantasies, it will also hurt their brands (how much would remain to be seen).

The current newspaper predicament is the result of inertia and a failure to act over a period of years, as well as hubris to a degree. Their belief in the value of their content (especially at News Corp.) and, if removed from Google, its capacity to humble the search engine is misplaced. Newspapers need to build more user-centric experiences and have myriad, different ways to distribute their content — as well as offer clever subscriber incentives, etc. (Obviously this is a crude list of recommendations.)

This emerging “take that” approach will simply boomerang and accelerate their current decline.


11 Responses to “Pull Articles from Google, Lose Traffic”

  1. AhmedF Says:

    Don’t they both get hurt? (though News Corp more).

    How many of the searches that led to a user to WSJ (using that as an example) were directly related to WSJ? If I search for ‘wsj’ on Google and don’t find a result, that reflects badly on Google. If I read an article on the WSJ titled ‘Cats & Dogs blah blah’ and when I searched Google for that and found no results – it does look bad on Google too.

    Just saying I do think Google will be harmed a lot less, but it can definitely harm them too.

  2. Tom Crandall Says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Greg.

  3. Greg Sterling Says:


    In your scenario where I’m looking for a particular article and it’s not there maybe. More likely the majority will simply not notice. If I have a strong “affinity” for a publication, I’ll navigate there directly.

  4. Mike Bunnell Says:

    I don’t believe they would remove the site completely. Rather they would not allow indexing of news content. So a search for “wsj” would indeed return a link to wsj.com.

    If you search for a particular news article (and NWS truly doesn’t allow any news content to be indexed), then yes, this would prove to be an annoyance for which google might be perceived negatively.

    However, Google’s hands are not tied. I wouldn’t put it past them to include some kind of a snippet box on SERPS for wsj content queries kindly informing the reader that if he is looking for wsj news articles, he’ll have to go directly to wsj.com and search there, since NWS has forbidden google from indexing their content.

    Who looks like a jerk then?

  5. Local Search Source Says:

    Google or Bing’s ability to index news or content is not my concern. I apologize upfront, I’m not from this Industry, but my thinking is this: does the Internet contribute to the distribution of inaccurate/bias/unchecked news, articles or stories? In other words – traditionally published news items are generated (and in theory, verified) from “legitamate” sources with the backing of fact-checkers, news departments and editors. Are these specific journalistic checks/balances potentially being comprimised if accuracy goes unchecked? I’m all for the freedom of distribution – but am also worried that we’ll lose the accountability…

  6. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    The flaw in Murdoch’s position is that most of the content he plans to withhold from Google is commodity news that is equally well covered/analyzed by many other indexed news channels, print or otherwise. So Murdoch loses traffic while the rest of us barely notice a difference.

  7. jvrudnick Says:

    Greg….I live in a small town of about 15k, which was amalgamated with a much larger (500k) city next door about 7 years ago. We have a local small community weekly paper and THEY ran a Letter to the Editor which asked why the paper doesn’t ‘come up’ in Google when you search for ‘news’ My point is that for newspaper readers, many of them, probably most of them do not understand the depth of the Google index, nor for that matter how to search. So I’d think that educating the users of Gooogle, would be a great first step…dunno how to do that of course…just MHO is all!



  8. dax Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly Greg, and would add that in the rush for revenues, the lack of innovative strategies and unwillingness to welcome the openness of the internet model, will continue to cause massive failure-especially since the financial market wizards, have gotten involved with LBO and PE deals, and levered most media to the sky.

    The survivors will be the new companies that exchange knowledge, and reward the users and contributors in a more equal manner…not the one-sided advertiser models of last century.

    No one has a monopoly on knowledge- (ie NEWS) but all of us have it embedded to some degree, and that, curated, verified, and allow to flow freely,ultimately, is what is of value for exchange.

    Sorry if the old media empires don’t like it-but the consumer has already voted.

    But I will say, the financial backers (debt), are waiting in the wings for when the old models finally meet failure …and once the old media models fully BK will be ready to use the structural remains to build whatever upon whatever new model emerges. Scavengers!

  9. Local Search Source Says:

    An interesting 37 minute interview with Murdoch – this provides some real clarity on his postion…

    “20 years” before newspapers die?!!

  10. Tom Crandall Says:

    Google to Let Publishers Set Limits:


    This appears to be a re-hash of providing access to a few articles before hitting a subscription paywall. Why would it work any better now?

  11. Greg Sterling Says:


    Yep. Won’t necessarily do much. People will hit the wall and move on it seems to me.

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