Internet

Rupert Murdoch's Definition of Libertarianism: "Don't trust the government, don't trust me, just trust yourself."

|


Cory Doctorow lays into Rupert Murdoch's bold plan to take all of News Corp.'s web sites out of Google search and undo fair use borrowings of Fox material:

You know what? He's lying. But I think it'd be entertaining if every reporter who interviewed him, for the rest of his life, said, "Hey, Rupert, when are you going to take all your company's websites out of Google?" It'd also be hilarious to get the CEOs of the various pieces of Rupert's empire to comment on whether they want all their company's materials invisible to search engines.

But in the Sky News interview, the News Corp. chairman also gives a pretty good definition of libertarian thinking: "Don't trust the government, don't trust me, just trust yourself."

That's Murdoch's definition of Glenn Beck, and while I don't know how well it describes Beck's position, it's not too bad as a shorthand for libertarianism.

You will submit to Rupert Murdoch!

Murdoch is all over the place: He also threatens to sue the BBC and still insists the taxpayer bailouts of large, politically connected banks (at least the ones from last year) were necessary. Doctorow is correct that Murdoch's plan to disappear from Google search and start charging for his sites, at the very least, puts him at odds with his own media divisions. Even the Wall Street Journal's website —which Murdoch points to as a successful example of walled-off content (in which the wall doesn't go "all the way to the ceiling")—only sporadically enforces its pay-only model.

Murdoch's plan to get fewer readers but paying readers is also sadly reminiscent of the plan for "smaller but higher-value" circulation that many newspapers claimed to be pursuing for a few years around the turn of the 21st century. Of course that plan came to nothing, not because it went against newspapers' future but because it went against their past: The purpose of news publishing has always been to get the maximum number of readers. That's why newspapers to this day still engage in dollar-or-less-per-issue discounting campaigns and offer home delivery at rates that barely cover the adult paperboys' gas bills.

That having been said, Murdoch understands two things many crackerbarrel news futurists don't: 1) how to make money in the media business; and 2) just how much of that money is still coming from the dinosaurs everybody likes to disown.

Murdoch recognizes that those dinosaurs are going away, and it's because he has clearly not found the solution, yet keeps trying at an age when he could just buy himself a planet to retire on, that he's worth listening to. The model he's currently proposing won't work, but he makes an interesting, informed argument for it:

Back in August, I found more reasons to poop on Murdoch's firewall scheme. In 2007, when a smiling Murdoch announced exactly the opposite web strategy, Katherine Mangu-Ward welcomed the freedom. And for all you youngsters out there: Do you know that way back in 2004, Rupert Murdoch was considered a dangerous media monopolist? Ben Compaine explained it all.