Many of the same articles you buy in a newspaper can easily be found online; a quick search on a service like Google News returns literally thousands of articles.
For several years, all of the major news organisations have been wondering how they can make money online, but it's old warhorse (and self-styled "catalyst for change") Rupert Murdoch who has decided to take a stand.
"Should we be allowing Google to steal all our copyright?" - Rupert Murdoch
These were Murdoch's confrontational words earlier this year, and now he's ramped up the rhetoric by suggesting News Corp. content could be pulled from the search engines altogether.
"I think we will [remove our websites from Google's search index] but that's when we start charging,"
Is he serious?
Many spectators have poured scorn on Murdoch's threats, suggesting that the News Corp. content won't be missed in a sea of free online content and that to cut themselves off from all that traffic would be suicide. However, if ad-suppored news content isn't profitable, what have they got to lose?
News Corp. has already started to experiment with online paid services with its Wall Street Journal property, where subscription is required for full access. The site had almost 1 million subscribers in 2007; how many they have now is anyone's guess.
The real danger is that once News Corporation jump, other news powerhouses could follow. There might seem like there are lots of news providers in the world, but the majority of the news organisations worldwide are in the hands of surprisingly few companies - just in the UK, News Corp. alone own The Sun, News of the World, Sunday Times, The Times and Sky Television. Other outlets include The New York Post, Wall Street Journal and Fox News.
Consider also that many news stories aggregated from the content of a few big providers and it's easy to see how a big hole could be put in free online news.
News Corp goes Bing exclusive?
If News Corp. want to remove themselves from Google, the answer is simple. A robots.txt file would be enough to block Google from indexing its websites, problem solved.
However, before they do leap Murdoch & co. will want a clear plan on how they're going to make up for the revenue a huge drop in audience share would generate. Enter Microsoft stage left. If rumours are to be believed, News Corp. and Microsoft have been holding meetings about the possibility of blocking Google and making the content accessible via Microsoft's Bing search engine.
A big cash incentive from Microsoft could solve News Corp's online revenue dilemma, with the addition of exclusive content helping to grow Bing's market share - an aim Microsoft are aggressively pursuing. According to the Financial Times (not one of Murdoch's), Microsoft has also been approaching other online publishers about the possibility of going Bing-exclusive.
Should Google be worried?
When Murdoch first made his comments about removing News Corp. from Google's index he was largely met with derision by online commentators. After all, Google is hugely popular (they have approx. 90% share of the UK search engine market) and whether they choose to rank a website and send traffic can often determine whether it lives or dies.
However, despite Google's dominance, News Corp. and other leading news providers are also massive companies (at $30 billion News Corp. still had a higher revenue than Google last year) and if they act en-masse could yet have a big impact on Google's usefulness to searchers.
It has to be remembered that Google own very little. The content on which they rely to sell their advertising is all owned by third-parties; from the smallest webmaster up to the likes of News Corp. and Reuters.
Google only became so popular because it was so efficient at delivering the results internet users were looking for, and news is a large part of that. If Bing can pull off some big exclusives with the likes of News Corporation, and if Google don't pay closer attention to their increasingly spammy search results
, the dominance of Google as the search engine of choice might not be quite as secure as it seems.