Knewz, the news aggregation site created by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in an attempt to leverage Google and Facebook’s control over what articles users read, is dead. The website, curated by a mix of artificial intelligence and real breathing editors, only lasted 18 months before shutting down, possibly because News Corp started getting concessions from Google and Facebook.
Knewz’s garish yellow front page is gone, but you can still see his farewell post (and a listing for other News Corp sites). According to Knewz, it had provenance, “but not profits”.
Knewz has tried to present itself as a publisher-friendly aggregator, drawing sources large and small from across the political spectrum. If it had worked as promised, it would have favored original reports rather than rapid aggregation of news, shared data with publishers, and avoided reducing ad revenue. The problem was that no one was reading the news through Knewz, and according to Columbia Journalism Review, the site frequently defaults to News Corp sources compared to other publishers.
The timing of a Knewz shutdown makes sense, although it seems to shatter the illusion that News Corp was doing this for someone other than itself. Thanks to a law backed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – in News Corp’s territory – platforms like Google and Facebook are forced to pay and negotiate with news publishers to post their stories. Initially, it didn’t go well with either platform (Google threatened to pull its search engine out of Australia), but eventually Google and Facebook ended up making deals. with News Corp. You don’t need a weird, blunt tool like Knewz when you can just trick Australian regulators into forcing people to pay you.