A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that News Corp - Murdoch's flagship company - was in talks with Microsoft about switching all of its content to Bing, Microsoft's new search engine. Giving Bing exclusive access to News Corp content would deflate Google's boast of universal reach and unrivalled access to web information.
Now, Google has announced on its official blog that the number of free clicks by a single user accessing news from Google News would be limited to five.
If you're a Google user, this means that you may start to see a registration page after you've clicked through to more than five articles on the website of a publisher using First Click Free in a day.
In the past, a loophole existed whereby users could access paid-for content free if they clicked through from Google News. This loophole has now been closed, although publishers might argue that five clicks from Google News to a single news website is tantamount to allowing unlimited access. In future, Google's "five clicks" policy might change to "two clicks" or even less. We'll see.
At the talk given at a Federal Trade Commission workshop Murdoch also slapped down ideas about government subsidies.
"Good journalism is an expensive commodity," he said. He also said that the idea of government intervention "ought to be chilling to anyone who cares about free speech". It's bad enough for commercial publishers that Australians and Britishers can access free news via government-funded news sites. The last thing they want to see is a US government-funded option appearing.
Meanwhile, newspaper publishers gathered at The World Newspaper Conference in Hyderabad, India, have voiced dismay at the drop in their revenues, asking for "fair share, fair search",
meaning that content providers should be compensated even for very short strings of content and the search results should not be manipulated unfairly against the original content providers.
News publishers have also put a figure on the amount of news that is unlawfully "stolen" by other sites, who take the full article and apply advertising to it.
This is an extreme case, and far different from the Hyderabad publishers' contention that "providers should be compensated even for very short strings of content".
It brings up the assertion made by Murdoch (during a Sky News TV interview), and others (including APN News & Media Ltd chief executive Brendan Hopkins at the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association conference held in Sydney), that bloggers excerpting information under 'fair use' legal rules could also - given new realities - be considered to be acting unlawfully.
If this view gained currency, then this blog would definitely be affected.
I can see how a blog post made here that excerpted content from, say, two or three paid-for websites, might be looked upon with a jaundiced eye by wary publishers.