News Corp to share its tabs on websites

The News Corp headquarters in Midtown Manhattan in New York City.
The News Corp headquarters in Midtown Manhattan in New York City.PHOTO: AFP

The media group's service to track and share websites with negative content with advertisers is its latest step against Google

NEW YORK • Google's pain may be Mr Rupert Murdoch's gain.

His News Corp is introducing a new service to ensure online advertisements do not appear next to fake news or offensive videos, marking the latest salvo in the billionaire media mogul's long battle with the world's biggest search engine.

News Corp's Storyful unit will track websites known as purveyors of fake news or extremist content and share that list with advertisers.

It is pitched as a full blockade against content that is anathema to marketers, arriving as the two biggest forces in online advertising - Alphabet's Google and Facebook - face pressure for failing to offer such tools.

Google, in particular, has taken heat for its video offerings. Several major advertisers stopped spending on YouTube last month over concern that their advertisements could appear next to offensive videos.

Google introduced controls to mitigate the problem, yet rivals are trying to exploit the issue.

Storyful's new service, for example, will focus on "video brand safety", executives said.

News Corp will work with Moat, the analytics company recently acquired by technology giant Oracle, and the City University of New York's School of Journalism to maintain the list of controversial website domains.

The database will be free, though Storyful eventually wants to provide a service to help advertisers decide where to place advertisements.

Storyful chief executive Rahul Chopra said the company is working not just on compiling a list of controversial websites, but also on identifying how such content spreads online in an attempt to stop it earlier.

He wants to "choke the money supply to people spreading content like this".

Storyful will roll out the new service for advertisers in the next couple of weeks.

The latest moves from News Corp add to those that have seen the company nudging its way into the conversation about digital advertising that is increasingly being dominated by Google and Facebook.

The tense history between News Corp and Google goes back years.

In 2009, Mr Murdoch accused Google of stealing articles and threatened to pull his company's stories from its search results.

Since then, News Corp has become a much different company.

In 2013, it split from 21st Century Fox, with Fox taking the lucrative television networks and film studio while News Corp kept newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and New York Post.

Mr Murdoch's company has flexed other muscles since.

It is developing its own advertisement network offering "one-stop shopping" for brands to buy advertisements on properties such as The Wall Street Journal, New York Post and Realtor.com.

It is an investor in AppNexus, an advertising technology company that competes with Google's DoubleClick platform. And News Corp owns Unruly, which competes with Google's YouTube in social video advertising.

Still, News Corp's frustrations with Google have continued to fester.

Early this year, the subscription- only Wall Street Journal stopped participating in a programme that allowed readers to copy and paste a headline into Google and read the article for free.

The move led to a bump in subscriptions, but also caused Journal stories to get fewer clicks, leading the newspaper's links to get buried in Google search results, according to a person close to News Corp.

Few media companies have been more critical recently of tech giants such as Google than News Corp.

The YouTube boycott was prompted by a recent investigation by News Corp's London newspaper The Times, which found brands advertising next to YouTube videos posted by extremist groups.

In a February earnings call, News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson cited The Times' investigation as an example of the risks facing advertisers online.

"Digital distributors have long been a platform for the fake, the faux and the fallacious," he said on the call. He added that "there will surely be a reckoning" in the advertising market.

And now Mr Murdoch and his team are offering advertisers another option.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2017, with the headline 'News Corp to share its tabs on websites'. Print Edition | Subscribe