News Corp Is Developing Knewz, a News-Aggregation Service to Counter Google That Would Present Content Without ‘Bias’

Todd Spangler

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Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is aiming to fight back against internet behemoths Google and Facebook — which the company has accused of profiting off its content — with “Knewz,” a news-aggregation app that it says would include a wide range of sources and be free from “bent or bias.”

The Knewz news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which is published by News Corp’s Dow Jones & Co. division.

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There’s no launch date for Knewz but it could debut later in 2019. Earlier Thursday, a message on Knewz.com said, “This site is available to registered users only” and was updated later with a logo (pictured above) and signup form to let users register for beta access.

A News Corp rep confirmed the project but declined to provide details. “We are exploring this with the goal of recognizing and rewarding the provenance of journalism, and to drive traffic and data to publishers — including subscription sites — so their original work is respected,” spokesman Jim Kennedy said in a statement. He added, “We want people to see a wide spectrum of news and views, from local, niche and national sources, without bent or bias.”

News Corp execs have long complained about Facebook and Google monetizing the media company’s content without any compensation. They were particularly unhappy with Google’s “first-click free” program for links from searches to paywall sites — like the Wall Street Journal — which the internet giant ended in 2017. Under the previous policy, if publishers opted out of first-click free, Google demoted their content in its search rankings. Google now gives publishers flexibility about how many articles per month they provide to non-subscribers from search results.

Meanwhile, last year News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch argued that Facebook should pay for news content. “If Facebook wants to recognize ‘trusted’ publishers then it should pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies,” he said in a statement from the company.

Knewz, according to the WSJ, will pull from sources including the Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, as well as local papers, digital-news sites and magazine publishers. In the mix are conservative outlets like the Daily Wire, the Daily Caller and the Washington Examiner, as well as progressive sites such as Daily Kos and ThinkProgress, according to the Journal report. The story said NBC News would be included in Knewz but reps for the news org said they had no knowledge of the project and didn’t plan to participate.

Right-wing figures including Donald Trump have accused Google and Facebook of a supposed anti-conservative bias in how they surface news and information. The companies have denied that they treat sources differently based on political ideology. Trump even drafted an executive order seeking to put the FCC and FTC in charge of regulating social-media platforms to police alleged bias, but federal officials have expressed concerns about the constitutionality of the move, CNN reported.

News Corp has hired Noah Kotch to oversee the Knewz project, according to the Journal’s report. Kotch most recently was editor-in-chief of British tabloid the Daily Mail, quitting the post this past January after about six months, and was previously Fox News Channel’s head of digital and a producer at NBC News’ “Today.” Kotch also is the former editor of News Corp’s now-defunct conservative site Heat Street.

Knewz, which would be available as both a website and a mobile app, will link directly to publishers’ sites, per the Journal report. News Corp would not take a cut of ad revenue but the Knewz service would reportedly include ads.

The Knewz name (with a silent “k,” of course) elicited mild mockery as a klunky attempt by News Corp to come off as internet-kewl, with some observers comparing it to Tribune Publishing’s awkward rebrand to Tronc in 2016 before the company reverted to its original moniker last year. “Move over tronc. there’s a knewz kid in town,” New York Times report Sapna Maheshwari tweeted. The name of the service could change, and it’s possible News Corp could decide to scrap the project altogether.

News Corp filed for trademark protection on “Knewz” in December 2018, describing it in the filing as “providing an internet website portal featuring links to web sites of others in the field of current events.” Meanwhile, there’s also a long-running polka band called The Knewz that hails from Buffalo, N.Y.

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