13 November 2009

Murdoch To Try Making Paid Content Stick

from Media Buyer Planner

Rupert Murdoch plans to use the Sunday Times as a test for his new push to charge for online content, beginning in November.

The Sunday Times website is currently combined with sister title the Times, but it will be launched as a stand-alone site in the fall and will begin charging a fee to access content, according to the Guardian. So far, it is unclear whether the site will charge a fee for each visit, or whether it will offer a subscription model.

Following the announcement of huge financial losses in its fourth quarter, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch said earlier this week that the company will charge for access to all news websites, including FoxNews.com, by the middle of next year. News Corp. revenue fell 11% to $7.7 billion in the quarter ended June 30; the company’s loss was $203 million, down from a $1.1 billion net gain last year.

The Sunday Times is the largest of the weekend newspapers in the U.K., with more than 1 million copies sold per week. It has long offset losses at the Times, but is now thought to be losing money.

Murdoch’s public announcement that he plans to charge for all titles indicates he may be subtly encouraging competitors to do the same, industry executives say. “[Murdoch] knows that this will work better if all the main competitors do it,” Andrew Neil, former editor of the Sunday Times and a key executive in Murdoch’s empire, is quoted as saying. But Neil said the online version of the paper will have to change significantly and have a distinct character, different from the print version, if a pay model is to succeed.

Meanwhile, readers of the News Corp.-owned Australian news site, news.com.au, are threatening to quit News Corp. sites should Murdoch make good on his plan to charge for content. More than 140 replies from readers were attached to Murdoch’s announcement, with most of them opposed to the move.

Murdoch is likely aware the move will not be a popular one among readers - but if he is successful in prompting enough other newspaper companies to charge for content, readers may have little choice but to ante up for the news. “Quality journalism is not cheap,” Murdoch said (via Australian paper The Age). “An industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting.”

Murdoch is not alone in his claim that quality journalism does not come cheaply. BusinessWeek points out that New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, for example, used a similar phrase in an interview last December with NPR.

The most prominent newspapers that charge for content online are the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Both offer some content for free but charge fees to those who want complete access.

No comments:

Post a Comment