Rupert Murdoch has found the whipping boy to help him orchestrate the return of the editor and borders surrounding publications and how we consume news.
Deep linking: that’s what they call it; when a website links directly to an article on another website, rather than its homepage. And the Murdochs have never been a fan. Back in the mid-noughties there was a concerted effort by the Times to stop third parties linking to articles - bypassing its registration (meaning its home page).
Later in the decade, it seemed that they had lost the battle, the Times content became free, it was possible to jump from an article covering a certain theme in the Times, to the Telegraph to the Guardian.
Up to that point, an editor chose the order with which news was presented - the editor chose the spin, chose what weight to give a story. In the interests of objectivity the editor would occasionally have chosen to run two articles covering the same theme, but expressing different views. But this was rare.
This all changed - the rise of Google News, and other news aggregation sites gave control to the user - the editor was squeezed out of the mix - we became our own editors.
For a very brief period, the Murdochs succumbed - it was as if they concluded that since they could not beat ‘them’ they would ‘join them’, buying MySpace, for example.
By the the beginning of this decade, though, they began the move back to the old-fashioned news approach - The Times became premium, almost opting out of the internet universe of news. It was a bold move, but looking at the way other publications have followed suit, does seem to have worked.
And the broader shift back to that older way has gathered pace. The rise of apps helped - tying us in to one publication at a time, traveling via the home page of any publication to get the particular news we wanted.
But maybe the problems at Facebook are a Murdoch dream. Mark Zuckerberg wants to tackle fake news and to keep the news feeds we receive on our Facebook account more relevant by prioritising established publishers.
And Rupert Murdoch wastes no time. He said: “If Facebook wants to recognise ‘trusted’ publishers then it should pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies.” He added: “The publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services.”
He continued: “Facebook and Google have popularised scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable. Recognition of a problem is one step on the pathway to cure, but the remedial measures that both companies have so far proposed are inadequate, commercially, socially and journalistically.”
Umm, so the answer then is for social media channels to pay the Times and Sun to feature editorial in their feeds.
But pull back. How will this affect start-up publishers? Would such a move really be in the interests of the consumer? Should they not be able to share the news they want to share?
See this in the context of the net neutrality debate in the US - end net neutrality and you hand power to the old, established telecoms, and make life harder for start-ups.
It boils down to barriers to entry. The internet had a devastating effect on such barriers, creating an incredible level of diversity of content. We may over egg fake news - the media have rarely been the paragons of truth we are told. Remember, Hitler, he did not need social media to gain popular support.
We know that the internet has created both positive and negative outcomes on how our news is served. But the risk is that we only focus on the negative side. The pendelum has shifted back to an older form of publishing, we are in danger of overreacting, making life harder for entrepreneurs and returning power to a handful of media proprietors.