News Corp CEO Assails Google's "Avarice," Silicon Valley's "Political Correctness"

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News Corp CEO Robert Thomson

"I would argue that much of the redistribution is an unnatural act," the publishing exec said of social networks.

News Corp's CEO has fired the latest salvo in the long-running war of words between Google and Rupert Murdoch's media holdings.  

On Thursday, Robert Thomson, the top executive of a publishing empire that includes The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, The Times of London and The Sun, took aim at the search giant's reorganization into a holding company called Alphabet. 

"That Google’s newly conceived parent company is to be called Alphabet has itself created a range of delicious permutations: A is for avarice, B is for bowdlerize, through to K for kleptocracy, P for piracy and Z for zealotry," the exec said at a journalism awards dinner in Australia. 

The speech by Thomson was a keynote at the Lowy Institute media awards dinner in Australia. It was first reported by media website mUmBRELLA, and Thomson's full remarks are here and audio is embedded below. 

Social networks, he explained, are beginning to recognize "premium content," but not to the benefit of media organizations.

"None of them actually create content, and they certainly have little intention of paying for it, but they do redistribute the content created by others. They would argue that such redistribution is a natural extension of their role as social networks. I would argue that much of the redistribution is an unnatural act," he stated. 

The publishing executive also assailed the political correctness of Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook, which, in his view, lie opposed to the "public debate"-mindedness of newspapers.

"And we are entering a new phase of development by the big distribution networks, a phase in which they are not only appropriating content but deciding what content is appropriate and inappropriate," he said. "They are appointing editors not to create but to curate. And these curators tend to have a certain mindset, a deep fondness for political correctness, and a tendency to be intolerant of ideological infractions."

The tech giants hiring editors mention may be a reference to Facebook's curation of news stories in its trending section (which has been a fluctuating traffic boon for some publishers) or Apple's recently announced plans to hire editors for a forthcoming news digest. 

"Silicon Valley is moving from the PC to being a purveyor of the PC," he said.

Thomson saved his sharpest barbs for an emerging competitor, LinkedIn, deeming it "spam central." (LinkedIn has recently made a foray into content production in an area that traditionally would be the Journal's turf, with an expansion of its CEO-courting Influencer program touting "personalized news and insights.")
"The spammers at LinkedIn discovered that CVs are only burnished occasionally and anyone who tweaks their CV a few times a week is probably not worth hiring," Thomson stated. "Anyway, they now see themselves as a news distributor, and news organizations who cozy up too closely to them are guilty of techno-trendiness. It is patently important to be aware of the trends but a grievous sin to be too trendy."