Microsoft Looking to Buy Fox, Others Away from Google Deals?

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Software giant Microsoft has proven its serious about trying to take on Google in both the Internet search and online advertising arenas, first through its abortive hostile attempt to take over Yahoo, launching its own comprehensive Internet search engine in Bing, and then making a ten-year search deal with Yahoo to have Bing handle Yahoo’s searching. Now, it seems Microsoft is looking to increase Bing’s visibility and erode Google’s market share at the same time, potentially by buying out some of Google’s high-profile search partners.

According to the Financial Times, Microsoft has already had early discussions with Ruper Murdoch’s News Corp—which owns social networking giant MySpace—about paying News Corp to have its sites removed from Google’s search index. And News Corp isn’t alone: according to the report, Microsoft has also approached other publishers about paying them to remove their content from Google’s search engine and have it available exclusively through Bing.

The discussions are described as preliminary, and tie into newspaper publishing’s increasing discomfort with search engines indexing their content and effectively serving it up to Internet users without bringing traffic to the publishers’ own sites (and paid advertisements). News Corp’s Murdoch has already been making noise about taking the majority of his newspaper’s behind so-called “paywalls,” where only paid subscribers would be able to access the news content. The Wall Street Journal, a News Corp paper, is perhaps the most successful newspaper behind a paywall, although its content and audience are not typical for the broader newspaper industry.

Back in 2006, News Corp entered into a $900 million search deal with Google that made Google the exclusive search and keyword advertising provider for Fox Interactive Media sites, including MySpace. It’s not clear how any potential deal to exclude News Corp content from Google would (or would not) run afoul of that arrangement.

If Microsoft is able to strike deals with News Corp and other newspaper publishers, it could set an interesting new precedent for the content industry, where search engines pay publishers for the right to index their content.

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