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Don't Bet Newspapers Will Get Rich Shunning Google

In theory, getting news organizations to block Google from including links to their content might give Microsoft a slight edge over its nemesis. Bing would have a trove of material that its rival didn't, giving people more reason to search somewhere besides Google. Google handles more than six times as many Web searches as Bing, a lead that Google has translated into billions of dollars in annual revenue from ads that the company sells alongside search results.

But even if it were willing to pay for exclusive indexing rights to some newspapers, Microsoft then would have to spend heavily to make sure Web surfers knew Bing had stuff that Google didn't ¿ and even that might not be enough to get people to break their Google habit, said Forrester Research analyst Shar VanBoskirk.

"The reality is that people have been trained to go to Google for information, so if you are not showing up in Google, that hurts," she said.

Newspaper Web sites need all the traffic they can get, because the revenue they're collecting online is not close to making up for what they're losing in print. Print advertising revenue ¿ the main source of income for newspapers ¿ is in a three-year slump and on pace to slip to its lowest level since 1987.

More than 21 percent of the clicks to newspaper Web sites come from Google, according to the research firm Experian Hitwise. Just 2 percent come from Bing, fewer than the referrals from Facebook, Yahoo and the Drudge Report.

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