Microsoft has had discussions with News Corp over a plan that would involve the media company being paid to “de-index” its news websites from Google, setting the scene for a search engine battle that could offer a ray of light to the newspaper industry.
The impetus for the discussions came from News Corp, owner of newspapers ranging from the Wall Street Journal of the US to The Sun of the UK, said a person familiar with the situation, who warned that talks were at an early stage.
However, the Financial Times has learnt that Microsoft has also approached other big online publishers to persuade them to remove their sites from Google’s search engine.
News Corp and Microsoft, which owns the rival Bing search engine, declined to comment.
One website publisher approached by Microsoft said that the plan “puts enormous value on content if search engines are prepared to pay us to index with them”.
Microsoft’s interest is being interpreted as a direct assault on Google because it puts pressure on the search engine to start paying for content.
“This is all about Microsoft hurting Google’s margins,” said the web publisher who is familiar with the plan.