This smacks of cartel, but only if the publishers work together to start charging for the right to index their content. If they did it separately, it would just be smart business — finding a way to charge for their online content.
“New York Times, only available on Bing.” The horror, the horror!
Of course, it would only work for sites whose content the search engines want, like New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Claiming that the right to index your site has value isn’t going to work for small papers or media organizations. If the Bozeman Daily Chronicle went to Google and say “pay us to index our stuff,” it would be a different story.
All in all, a model that might work for the big guys and tear the Internet asunder in one fell swoop, but not a viable model for the newspaper business as a whole.
Update: Cory Doctorow has a column in the Guardian, “Rupert Murdoch: for whom the net tolls,” that deals with this scheme that’s certainly worth a read. He basically says Rupert Murdoch is a schemer who doesn’t understand how the world really works. Good stuff.
Update 2: Jeff Jarvis chimes in, of course.
Jason Calicanis fantasizes about Microsoft paying The New York Times to leave Google’s index for Bing. Let me explain why that would never happen. 1. The Times is not stupid. 2. Times subsidiary About.com – the only bright spot these days in the NYTimesCo’s P&L – gets 80% of its traffic and 50% of its revenue from Google. 3. See rule No. 1.