Murdoch: “People reading news for free on the Web, that’s got to change”


Rupert Murdoch was speaking at an industry event and came out with some interesting comments.

Article – http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090403/media_nm/us_cableshow_murdoch

Rupert Murdoch, whose media company News Corp owns one of the few U.S. newspapers that makes people pay to read its news on the Web, said more papers will have to start doing the same to survive.

Murdoch, who bought The Wall Street Journal and its parent company Dow Jones & Co in 2007, said online advertising, which most U.S. publishers hope will offset ad revenue declines at their print divisions, will not cover their costs.”

This topic is being discussed a lot at the moment – can the news providers online keep giving away their product for free … or will they need to charge?

Murdoch feels that charging people is a model worth a further look, and the current slump in the digital ad market would definitely be fueling this investigation.

The WSJ has a semi-paid model that appears to work okay … but it’s the WSJ.

I wonder how a model like this would work in AU? The pessimist in me says that it couldn’t work unless all news providers colluded amongst one another to cut off the supply of free local news at the one time.

Could News go to a paid model in AU. I really doubt it but they could maybe try with elements of The Australian … maybe. Generally, I don’t think consumers would pay for the content. And unless Fairfax and ninemsn went semi-paid at the same time I think they’d find their users would just migrate. I’m not saying the content isn’t good, it is, it’s just not scarce.

Another key factor to consider is if you want to charge people you have to provide exceptional, unique content. Do the News local mastheads do this? Not really. Most of it is feeds and stories from the print edition … same with The Age and SMH online. Crikey can charge because if you don’t subscribe you can’t get the same news and view elsewhere. There is a real value in that.

The thing to remember is – Crikey is driven by a want for depth and analysis whereas most of the news market digitally in Au is driven by convenience and immediacy. Convenience and immediacy are in huge supply on the web, great insightful, intelligent opinion is not.

I would question whether Business Spectator could pursue this model despite the strength of contributors. Maybe for the Kohler and gang editorial … but the rest is generally available elsewhere. And what would be a fair price?

Whatever happens, it’s a big discussion and would require some king kong sized balls from whoever made the decision first to try and go paid in AU. We all know what happened to afr.com don’t we … no one is going to want to be responsible for killing a great print brand online.

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One response to “Murdoch: “People reading news for free on the Web, that’s got to change”

  1. Agree this will take some “king kong sized balls” to make the shift. But also think Murdoch is partly right in questioning the role of Google in all this.

    I’ve posted some comments on my blog here: http://importanceofideas.com/2009/04/07/google-should-search-for-solution-too/

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