Microsoft is considering paying News Corp to de-list itself from all search properties other than Bing. This news alone is not that interesting, as I have no desire to search MySpace, the Post, the WSJ, etc…
But, it begs the question does any content owner have valuable enough content to justify deliberately de-indexing and attempting to charge for the right to index the content?
As I run through the list in my head of the world’s largest content owners (Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, Viacom, News Corp…. none of them seem compelling enough in comparison to the long tail of content creators that would never deliberately de-index. In other words, the fat head of the power law curve of content ownership is not fat enough to gain leverage over the distribution channels (search engines and inbound links).
Imagine if a few of these content owners banded together and did deliberately de-index themselves. Until licensing agreements were arranged, all their inbound Google traffic would be delivered elsewhere, likely to a direct competitor.
For example, a sports-related query that previously targeted ESPN would then be redirected to CBS’s Sportsline. Keep in mind that about 30%* of Google queries are really just direct navigation… it’s people typing “ESPN.com” as a query into their browser and then clicking on the top result in order to go to ESPN. If Disney de-indexed all of those queries would point to Sportsline or another leading sports portal.
This could be a dangerous move for the world’s most powerful media companies, because if Google doesn’t license their content, they could drive all their customers directly to the front door of competitors.
*I don’t remember the source of this statistic… it was from an article than an analytics company like comScore or HitWise put out back 2 or 3 years ago, so its accuracy is shaky at best, but it’s a decent rough approximation.