Bing not likely to outbid Google for news
In the latest wild idea to save newspapers, the Financial Times is reporting that Microsoft would pay publishers to prevent Google from linking to their stories, so as to drive more traffic to its Bing search site.
The idea, which merits high marks for creativity, seems most unlikely to get off the ground. Here are the relevant facts:
:: Approximately half of the traffic to newspaper websites comes from search-engine referrals, according to Greg Harmon of Belden Interactive, the most authoritative researcher on the behavior of online news consumers.
:: Fully 71% of the searches on the web are handled by Google, while fewer than 7% of the searches are handled by Bing, according to the latest industry statistics.
:: If a newspaper were generating revenues as low as $1 per thousand for banner advertising on the traffic steered to it by search engines, then Microsoft would have to pay the paper more than $10 per thousand to make it worthwhile for the paper to forsake traffic from Google.
Now, ask yourself this:
:: Could Microsoft be that desperate? Perhaps.
:: Assuming Microsoft were that desperate, could newspaper traffic be all that valuable to Microsoft when so much other news traffic would remain widely and freely available at Google? I think not.
:: Would newspapers risk slipping further into irrelevance among readers and advertisers by denying their articles to 71% of the world’s search traffic? I hope not.
So, what’s it all about?
The threat of selling out to Microsoft is aimed at getting Google to pay for linking to newspaper stories, something that, for the most part, it does not do. (There are a few notable exceptions to this rule, such as the payment Google makes to the Associated Press and a few other international news agencies for using their content.)
The problem with this bargaining tactic is that it appears newspapers need Google more than Google needs them. Publishers are well within their rights to try to squeeze some money out of the search gorilla but they had best remember who’s running the jungle.