Knewz, the news aggregation site created by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to attempt to gain some leverage against 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, lasted just 18 months before shutting down, presumably because News Corp began to get concessions from both Google and Facebook.
The garishly yellow front page of Knewz is gone, but you can still see its farewell message (and a plug for other News Corp sites). According to Knewz, it had provenance, “but not profits.”
Knewz tried to bill itself as a publisher-friendly aggregator, pulling from sources big and small across the political spectrum. If it had worked as promised, it would’ve favored original reporting over quick news aggregation, shared data with publishers, and skipped taking a cut of ad revenue. The problem was no one was reading the news through Knewz, and according to The Columbia Journalism Review, the site frequently defaulted to News Corp sources over other publishers.
The timing for a Knewz shutdown makes sense, even if it seems to shatter the illusion that News Corp was doing this for anyone other than itself. Thanks to a law supported by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission — on News Corp’s home turf — platforms like Google and Facebook are forced to pay, and negotiate with, news publishers to display their stories. This initially did not go down well with either platform (Google threatened to pull its search engine from Australia), but ultimately both Google and Facebook ended up striking deals with News Corp. You don’t need a weird and blunt tool like Knewz when you can just get Australian regulators to force people to pay you.