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According to news reports, Murdoch is in talks with Mr. Softy over a partnership that would allow Bing, and only Bing, to search and index the archives of News Corp. (NYSE: NWS ) media properties. How much Murdoch might pay is still unknown.
But the size of the tab isn't what matters. The Big News, to me, is that Microsoft is even considering this deal. There would have to be traffic incentives, benchmarks that Mr. Softy couldn't possibly meet.
Why? First, because of the numbers. No matter what Murdoch thinks of Google and its $100 million Google News operation, Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay told Reuters that the aggregator is responsible for roughly 14% of incoming traffic to News Corp. sites.
That's an issue. Bing is growing, but it doesn't have a reputation for news delivery. Nor has it positioned itself to be a digital paperboy. Instead, Microsoft wants you think of Bing as a "decision engine."
Second, I can't imagine readers using Bing to find the most important News Corp. content. Say The Wall Street Journal breaks a big story, as it did when it reported that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) CEO Steve Jobs had undergone a liver transplant.
Would News Corp.'s blocking of Google News have made a difference? Would users have flocked to Bing instead? Of course not! The varying newspapers of New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT ) , McClatchy (NYSE: MNI ) , Gannett (NYSE: GCI ) , and so on would have reported the story, crediting the Journal as their source. And every one of those stories would have appeared at Google News. Insatiable readers would have jumped straight from wherever Google took them to WSJ.com, where subscribers would have accessed the report in its entirety.
Finally, there are the brand ramifications. Does Microsoft really want to be the digital version of Murdoch News Channel? Unless news organizations were to abandon Google wholesale -- unlikely, in my view -- Bing would be the place you go if you want to check what's being reported by Fox. I'd expect Journal readers to stick with WSJ.com and their Yahoo! Finance ticker feeds.
Bing is better than this, Microsoft. Don't let Murdoch's petty feud with Google ruin one of your better products. But I've had my say. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Should Mr. Softy take Murdoch's money?