posted by Thom Holwerda on Mon 23rd Nov 2009 14:58 UTC
IconIt is no secret that Microsoft is doing whatever it can to eat away at Google's immense market share of the search market, with Bing being its most ambitious effort yet. Well, it seems the battle just got a whole lot dirtier, as The Financial Times has uncovered news that Microsoft has approached several news content providers, offering them money if they "de-index" their sites from Google.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about for-pay news distribution models on the internet, with News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch at the forefront. He has threatened with legal action to prevent Google from "stealing" articles published in his newspapers.

It appears Microsoft is taking this opportunity of turmoil to strike a blow at Google. Even though it was News Corp. that first approached Microsoft about the plan, The Financial Times has learnt that Microsoft has approached other news content providers by itself. Both News Corp. and Microsoft declined to comment.

Even though Google didn't have anything to say about this specific story, it did try to downplay the importance of news listings for Google. "Economically it's not a big part of how we generate revenue," Matt Brittin, Google's UK director, told an audience during a conference last week.

While we like to think this is all about search engines, the stakes are much higher for news content providers. Many of them have been struggling for a long time now trying to make profit from the internet, and with the printed media bleeding subscribers and sales, they need some other way to make revenue. When the internet was just a tool to get new readers, content providers had no problems with it - but now that the internet is more and more turning into the primary source for news, the printed media suffers.

If this battle persists, it could be the printed media that benefit, receiving sacks of money from Microsoft and Google.

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