Rupert Murdoch has been the poster boy for the frustration legacy content creators have with the current way that content moves around on the web. What Murdoch is missing is that the answer lies not in setting up more barriers, but in getting control of his distribution through more aggressive deployment of social media techniques. And that will only happen when his entire content creation teams are mobilized.

Here’s a real-life example of the confusion that is driving Murdoch, and other heads of content companies, batty. On Dec. 6 at 7:49PM, the Wall Street Journal posted a story that used analysis from the advisory firm NYYPEX to estimate enterprise values and revenue for Facebook and LinkedIn.

When I was writing my last post on the lessons Facebook can learn from AOL, I recalled seeing a $700 million revenue figure for Facebook bandied about on the social web yesterday and went to Google to find a citation. Here are the results to the query, “What is Facebook revenue”[Illustration 1].

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These results didn’t give me recent enough news, so I used Google options to select content that was published in the last 24 hours.[Illustration 2]

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I clicked onto the second page and found an information source that I regularly use, Mashable, and clicked through to the article.  [Illustration 3]

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Here was the content I was looking for. And, it has been widely distributed, with more than 700 Tweets recorded by TweetMeMe and 40 instances of Facebook sharing from the article page.

It’s not the originating instance of the story, however. See, Mashable built their article off of an original report in the Wall Street Journal, based on NYYPEX data. Here’s the original article, with a teaser hidden behind the WSJ pay wall. [Illustration 4]

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Curious about how the story has disseminated across the web, I went to Twitter Search and typed in “Facebook revenue.” Here are the results as of 12:15EST on December 8. [Illustration 5]

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Of note: the majority of these tweets link to Mashable or TheNextWeb, both of which built their stories completely off the Wall Street Journal story.

In the old days, this would be described as stealing a scoop. But, according to the rules of the web, each of the content sources that cited the Wall Street Journal were within the boundaries of “fair use.” (These uses of the articles read to me like they are right on the edge of violating copyright, but that’s semantics.) In citing the Wall Street Journal articles, however, there is no intent to drive traffic to the Wall Street Journal and the original article. The intent is to keep the traffic on the citing web site, generating economic benefit for the content aggregator, not the content originator.

I see this on some of the articles that I post on my blog. I’ll take a chart from another story that I find particularly illuminating and then try to add my perspective on the data as it relates to my experience and my audience. My hope is that the people looking at the piece will then go on to review the original data. Only a small part of my audience clicks through to the original source of content, however. So, I’ve tried to reduce the frequency that I point to other content, and I’ve tried to increase the frequency that I use Twitter to direct people to original sources of information.

For the editors of the Wall Street Journal, and for Murdoch as well as anyone else carrying a high level of content costs, the frustration is profound. What is the right way to craft and share information without losing your audience to a multitude of third-party aggregators?

What is the economic cost? Let’s conservatively assume that the Mashable and NextWeb stories got around 10,000 views each, costing the Wall Street Journal about 15,000 page views. With a $75 cost per thousand (CPM) for video ads and a $15 CPM on display ads, the WSJ would lose roughly $1500 of video revenue and $300 of display revenue on those pages. That doesn’t seem like a lot, and certainly doesn’t outweigh the benefit the Journal gets from the promotion of its story, right?

Start multiplying that effect by 100 stories a day, every day, and you quickly reach an estimate of about $5 million a month of lost revenue opportunities because of redistribution by third-party aggregators.

Murdoch may be focusing on the issues of Google’s search engine, but a profound economic disruption is found ion the broad redistribution of his content. That’s a problem that has no easy solution.

The logical first step is to take the fight to the streets. Use social media tools to distribute your content more broadly and more aggressively through your own social media brands, as well as the personal brands of your staffers. That’s what Business Week has done so well, and, for the most part, Business Week appears to get more traffic to their “scoops” than most other legacy media brands.

The new skill is going to be about wading into the fray, not keeping the fray away by erecting false barriers.