Green Room

News Corp Websites to Charge For Content?

posted at 1:34 pm on May 7, 2009 by

So Rupert Murdoch is indicating that News Corp is going to give the pay-per-view online newspaper model another shot. Ok, not per view, probably, but he does seem to think it’s going to make money. This time.

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch expects News Corporation-owned newspaper Web sites to start charging users for access within a year in a move which analysts say could radically shake-up the culture of freely available content.

“We are now in the midst of an epochal debate over the value of content and it is clear to many newspapers that the current model is malfunctioning,” the News Corp. Chairman and CEO said.

“We have been at the forefront of that debate and you can confidently presume that we are leading the way in finding a model that maximizes revenues in return for our shareholders… The current days of the Internet will soon be over.”

Not that I don’t love the capitalistic tone, here, but I just don’t see how it can be done. It failed miserably last time. Most online papers can’t even get readers to willingly give up their gender, age and zip code for access — much less a credit card number. So unless a major newspaper has a rather specific theme, like the Wall Street Journal, what could it possibly offer that can’t be found for free at or or in the blogosphere?

Naturally, he’s focusing on WSJ first, which is his best bet.

He said 360,000 people had downloaded an iPhone WSJ application in three weeks. Users would soon be made to pay “handsomely” for accessing WSJ content, he added.

The Journal’s already expensive. Not sure how much more he thinks he can milk out of it, when he can no longer justify covering the brick-and-mortar offices and the cost of ink and paper. But it’s possible that he’s onto something with the iPhone subscriptions.

Amazon announced this week that it’ll be producing a larger Kindle, called the DX, which will target a new reading audience. Not the literature fanatics (like me) but the business and student demographic. Its larger, auto-rotation-equipped screen is better adapted for textbooks, and yes, newspapers.

This is a much better dynamic for Murdoch to follow, I think. And Amazon seems to agree.

On the newspaper front, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe plan to partner with Amazon to sell the Kindle DX at a reduced price in exchange for a subscription contract.

Desktop and laptop computer screens are perfect for reading graphic-heavy online newspaper content without going blind. But the iPhone, to an extent — and the mostly-text, black-and-white Kindle, much more — are a natural way to read a newspaper in its standard, old-fashioned format.

Any other great ideas for alternatives to the dead tree paper, to keep these guys from folding? Charge for the comics or the crossword or their own blogs? Charge for Sunday only? I wouldn’t be heartbroken to see the New York Times tank, but News Corp tends to run papers with less liberal bias. What can they do to save themselves?

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Micro transactions are, I think, the way to go. Imagine if you could painlessly throw a buck in a digital tip jar once in a while without going through the hassle of pay pal et al?

TheUnrepentantGeek on May 7, 2009 at 1:53 PM

I don’t think it’s such a bad idea for the newspapers. I don’t think he was talking about blogs though.

youngO on May 7, 2009 at 4:43 PM

Stop trying to recreate the newspaper model on the internet and try to adapt the Hulu model by providing dynamic, interesting content with embedded ads. The content becomes an object that can be used and traded freely with the ads along for the ride. ?

ronsfi on May 7, 2009 at 4:44 PM

The WSJ nearly doubled their daily deliver price this year.

I cancelled.

I still weep over its loss, though.

John the Libertarian on May 7, 2009 at 4:45 PM

Most online papers can’t even get readers to willingly give up their gender, age and zip code for access — much less a credit card number.


radiofreevillage on May 7, 2009 at 4:51 PM

Just a semi-on-topic note here…

I have heard various “experts” cite one of the major blows to the newsprint industry was the popularity of Craig’s List. Ignoring media’s liberal leanings and the impact of the Internet as an alternative for information, I can definitely see that this revenue loss would a major factor in print’s demise.

gregbert on May 7, 2009 at 4:56 PM

People paid for newspapers because the dog needed to be trained and the bird cage needed to be lined. In older homes, it was used as flooring paper under the hardwood. It also came in handy to separate the husband from the misses at the breakfast table. The actual rubbish that was printed was just a teaser to get you to read the furniture ads.

Without the actual physical and very useful paper sheets, few will pay for it, especially since any important news comes on TV anyway, a medium for which we are already paying. And as far as opinion columns are concerned, the internet provides lots of opinions for free. If the internet has done anything, it’s made pundits out of just about everybody.

So Murdoch, keep tilting at windmills.

keep the change on May 7, 2009 at 4:58 PM

I might pay to read the WSJ, but not with my credit card–check or money order only or forget it. I’ll go to the library where my taxes pay for it for me.

jeanie on May 7, 2009 at 4:58 PM

How’s that MySpace bet working out for him? It’s got its music niche, but its social niche is petering out.

Patrick on May 7, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Oh and Coupons!

ronsfi on May 7, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Ads. Maybe bundling.

If you can pay a flat fee, and access several publications it might work. Or, combine it with a Kindle, etc.

“Buy 36 months of WSJ, get a reader for 39.99.” Might work.

You’re right about giving up information, though. If I see a reference to a newspaper article I want to read, I’ll try googling for a few minutes before I pay via credit card.

cs89 on May 7, 2009 at 5:13 PM

“dead tree paper” Nice polling. Obama prefers to call it “tired old failed dead tree paper of the past”. God, I hate these people.

marklmail on May 7, 2009 at 5:15 PM

Charge for what people are willing to pay for. That’s pretty much it.

spmat on May 7, 2009 at 7:03 PM

*shrug* Too late, the horses are out of the barn. His pay for viewing will wither on the vine, while new free sources pop up. It’s a story we’ve seen on the ‘net over and over now. He’ll get some to pay, sure. Nowhere near the amount that will view it for free, which means they’ll look elsewhere. Myself included.

Spiritk9 on May 7, 2009 at 7:10 PM

Yeah, I’ve got an idea. Quit printing opinions bolstered by anonymous sources and looking at every story through the lens of election horse racing. Hire reporters who actually know something about the sectors they cover and publish the damn news they collect. I’d pay for that.

JM Hanes on May 7, 2009 at 8:36 PM