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News Corp Will Charge For Newspaper Websites 453

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the probably-not-for-fox-news dept.
suraj.sun writes "Rupert Murdoch says having free newspaper websites is a 'flawed' business model. Rupert Murdoch expects to start charging for access to News Corporation's newspaper websites within a year as he strives to fix a 'malfunctioning' business model. Encouraged by booming online subscription revenues at the Wall Street Journal, the billionaire media mogul last night said that papers were going through an 'epochal' debate over whether to charge. 'That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal's experience,' he said."
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News Corp Will Charge For Newspaper Websites

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  • by wild_quinine (998562) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @10:58AM (#27860187) Homepage

    Rupert Murdoch says having free newspaper websites is a 'flawed' business model. Rupert Murdoch expects to start charging for access to News Corporation's newspaper websites within a year as he strives to fix a "malfunctioning" business model.

    On the other hand, everytbody knows that charging for something that everyone else provides for free is a winning strategy.

    • Well, he does cite the Wall Street Journal, I'm not sure how "booming" they actually are but he at least has an example to back up this move.

      • by BabyDuckHat (1503839) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:17AM (#27860585)
        Well, the Wall Street Journal is a good paper though, read by people who have money to spend.
      • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:18AM (#27860591)

        The Wall Street Journal isn't your typical newspaper, it's very nearly a technical journal that is required reading for people of a certain profession. The Journal doesn't report the same news that every other paper does, and it doesn't just rely on AP and Reuters feeds to do the work for them, it actually offers things that are nearly unique in the news industry. That, and only that, is why they can get away with a pay wall.

        • by monoqlith (610041) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:40AM (#27861009)

          Some of the same things can be said of the New York Times. And if you've read the WSJ lately, it has been diluted with entertainment news, sports news(this is not to denigrate sports, just to show that the WSJ is becoming just like other papers), and all the other things that make it par for the course for a Murdoch publication.

          No, something else besides level of technicality needs to explain why people are willing to pay for the WSJ.

          Here's a possibility: as another reader pointed out, you are allowed to access WSJ's premium content if you have been referred from another site. So what you are really paying for is the indexing of content at the WSJ site, and the ability to read the content which you can otherwise get for free the same way you would read a newspaper.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by alen (225700)

            The D section of the WSJ still has original stories. Becky Quick who is now on CNBC used to write there some years back. all her stories were orginal and not AP reprints

          • by CodeBuster (516420) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @12:42PM (#27862165)

            Some of the same things can be said of the New York Times.

            Some perhaps, but not many. The venerable grey lady is a pale shadow of her former self and doesn't really hold a candle to the WSJ which is a much meatier paper with much more information value for the money.

            No, something else besides level of technicality needs to explain why people are willing to pay for the WSJ.

            The Wall Street journal has good original articles on many non-technical and even non financial subjects (their political opinion page, for example, is often witty and insightful). In fact, I would argue that if one were interested in a strictly technical paper then there are even better (and more terse) papers out there that basically cater only to the financial services industry, The Financial Times [ft.com] for example. Also, the audience of the WSJ tends to be upper middle class and higher income which means that they have money to spend and like spending it on fine living so the WSJ attracts more and better high-end advertisers who will pay premiums for access to that upper-crust audience.

            Here's a possibility: as another reader pointed out, you are allowed to access WSJ's premium content if you have been referred from another site.

            This has been tried before so its not a new idea. The folks at Salon [salon.com] once tried "24 hour day passes" if users would view an ad from one of their advertising sponsers. This was back when Salon was trying to position itself as an "ultra-premium" online magazine that was "paying members only". They no longer do this, so it must not have been too successful.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by jonbryce (703250)

              The Financial Times is essentially the British version of the Wall Street Journal. Different publisher, but it covers the same niche in a different geographical market.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TapeCutter (624760) *
          Yep, people do not turn to the WSJ to read George Will's willfully ignorant opinion column. But I can think of no better way to moderate Murdoch's influence than to put a pay wall in front of his newspapers. One can only hope he will also make FOX news a pay-per-view channel.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sadler121 (735320)

            Can we also make MSNBC and CNN pay per view too? Those are just as biased as Fox News.

        • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:54AM (#27861271) Journal

          The Journal doesn't report the same news that every other paper does, and it doesn't just rely on AP and Reuters feeds to do the work for them, it actually offers things that are nearly unique in the news industry. That, and only that, is why they can get away with a pay wall.

          Considering that the business model for free online newspapers is unsustainable, and paper news is dying out, that implies that eventually all newspapers will be behind a pay wall. If, as you say, the only way for a news paper to thrive behind a pay wall is to offer very high quality unique content, that would imply that in the future all newspapers will offer high quality unique content. That sounds pretty nice.

      • by Dolohov (114209) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:19AM (#27860621)

        The question is what the Wall Street Journal provides that people are paying for. Mr. Murdoch seems to think that people are paying for access to the general newspaper sections that are shared with other papers - global news, national news, op-eds. I strongly suspect that he is wrong, that subscribers are paying primarily for the financial news. If I am right, then this model cannot be easily expanded to other newspapers.

      • Re:WSJ (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @12:47PM (#27862265)
        The thing with the Wall Street Journal is that most of the subscriptions are directly paid by companies or else put on the subscribers expense account. It's the same reason that internet access costs you $10.00 per day in a $250.. a night hotel and is free at the $50.00 a night place.
    • by mariox19 (632969) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:02AM (#27860275)

      What does Murdoch know about making money, anyway?

      • by wild_quinine (998562) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:09AM (#27860409) Homepage

        What does Murdoch know about making money, anyway?

        I don't know. But I know this: it sets off alarm bells ringing when somebody claims that a business model which has been evolving for nearly two decades is 'malfunctioning' just because it's not working in precisely the way in which they personally want it to work.

        Believing that the universe revolves around you may be a useful trait for someone determined to push their agenda onto the world, and make money whilst doing so. But I don't think for a second that makes those people right - just powerful.

        • What business model? Newspapers pay out the ass to create content, put it online for free, hemorrhage subscribers, and go broke? It's very Web 2.0, I'll give you that.

          I think he's right. They're not gaining enough from putting it online for free to justify continuing the experiment. Our (I work for a newspaper) own numbers are still going up, but they're not going up enough...The online revenue isn't going to stabilize at a level that's high enough to allow the business to continue.

          I've been harping on flipping the pay model for a while: right now a lot of papers charge for archival data...Stuff that's old, and has a very limited earnings potential...And give away the current stuff for free. If you flip that, and charge for anything in depth for the last 14 days(or so), and then release everything older than that for free, you keep your internet revenue stream, while still driving a viable pay product.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by benjfowler (239527)

        Yes, in the past. Remember that Sir Keith Murdoch, and Rupert himself in his younger days, ran their businesses in the heyday of print publishing. It's the business closest to Murdoch's heart, and the one he knows best.

        Murdoch is a shrewd, pragmatic (and sometimes amoral) operator who's good at making money. He's not invincible however. He dabbles in businesses and markets he doesn't understand, and he needlessly antagonises his minority shareholders. He runs businesses that lose money hand over fist.

        T

    • The P0rn option... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tei (520358)

      On the other hand, there are pay services for porn. Where quality and quantity is enough, a pay service is doable. Probably newspapers are near the quality and quantity needed to make it feasible. And with quantity, I mean how often you need the service. No one in the right mind will pay for a online encyclopedia, with the better one free. But for daily news, and porn, maybe.

      • by BobMcD (601576) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:10AM (#27860427)

        I was thinking exactly this as well.

        For the consumer that only wants a sixty second clip, there exists a free option.

        For the consumer who wants more content, there exists a place to input the credit card number.

        Newspapers could well do the same. Blurb is free, full story (and access to the discussion) requires subscription.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by stewbacca (1033764)
        You had me at "porn" and "doable".
      • "But for up to the minute news, and porn, maybe."

        There, I fixed it for you, but something still doesn't look quite right ...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by digitalgiblet (530309)

        Wikipedia started out as total crap.

        Britannica was brilliant.

        So how do you explain the shift from one to the other?

        People are satisfied with the FREE version if they perceive it as a) X% as good as the non-free alternative (feel free to insert whatever percentage you think is correct) and b) more convenient.

        EVEN if Britannica had been free, but required registration and log in to access, I believe people would have moved to Wikipedia because it was MORE convenient.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by David Gerard (12369)
          People liked the idea of Britannica in theory; in practice, they hadn't opened a copy since high school. People derided the idea of Wikipedia in theory, but in practice it's useful enough to be a top-10 website.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by slodan (1134883)
      While I am not a subscriber, I think people are willing to pay for the Wall Street Journal for their longer, feature-style articles. The WSJ tends to provide perspective, highlight trends, and point out emerging behavior. I'm not sure that this model applies to general news. Content tends to be similar or even identical (e.g. how 90% of all news comes straight from the AP feed). People are unlikely to pay for a story when they can get a nearly identical story elsewhere for free.
    • by reporter (666905) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:37AM (#27860951) Homepage
      What is destroying the newspapers is competition. Before the age of the Internet, the typical newspaper was a monopoly and enjoyed monopoly profits. For example, the city of Boston had only 1 major paper: the "Boston Globe". If you wanted insightful reports and commentary about the agreement signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, you must buy a copy of the "Boston Globe". The newspaper was the only game in town. (You could go to the library to read competing newspapers, but going to the library just to read newspapers is a hassle.)

      Today, a citizen of Boston can use the Internet to read news from a variety of sources: "New York Times", "The Washington Post", "San Francisco Chronicle", etc. He is not forced to buy only today's editon of the "Boston Globe".

      Just as any standard economics textbook states, if you destroy the monopoly by introducing competiton, monopoly profits also disappear. So, the "Boston Globe" is bleeding money.

      Yet, is this competiton good? Maybe not.

      Monopoly profits enable a newspaper to fund long-term investigations for stories that benefit society. For example, Bob Woodward and Carl Berstein spent months in investigating the "Watergate" scandal. That investigation cost money.

      In much the same way, the monopoly profts of the old AT&T, a telephone monopoly, funded breakthrough research at Bell Laboratories. It gave us the transistor.

      A research environment -- for either newspaper-investigative research or scientific research -- is ideal for allowing dedicated individuals the freedom to pursue their interests for the betterment of humankind. Competition -- with its profit-reducing mechanisms -- precludes such an environment.

      What can we do? There are 3 options.

      1. Go with a Public-Broadcasting Service model. Turn the newspapers into non-profit organizations that hold pledge drives to raise money. The government provides matching funds. The government, essentially acts, as the sugar mama. There is 1 potential problem. The government might try to control the news. If the investigative reports by a government-funded "Washington Post" reveal terrible things about a liberal politician, will a liberal-party-dominated government try to reduce funding to the "Washington Post"?

      2. Go with an endowment model. A rich philanthropist sets up a non-profit newspaper funded by the interest of a billion-dollar endowment. The salaries of the entire staff is paid by that endowment. In this model, the newspaper is free of external meddling.

      3. Go with a public-service model in which a major non-profit organization (e. g., a university or a church) maintains a newspaper division. The best example of this model is the Christian Science Monitor.

      I think that choice #2 is best.

      Regardless of which model is best, we must continue to have newspapers in our society. Newspapers are the bulk of the 4th branch of government. They are our eyes and ears in keeping us informed about our government. An uninformed electorate is the first step toward creating an authoritarian society.

      • by jadavis (473492)

        I think that choice #2 is best.

        Well, of course that's the best. Find someone with a billion dollars to spare, and your financial constraints are lifted. That's not exactly a business model though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DriedClexler (814907)

        You forgot option 4), the cable TV model: instead of each newspaper trying to pay, a group of sites get together under some banner. Let's call it WumpusPay. If you have a subscription to Wumpus pay, you get past the gate at every site that is part of WumpusPay. This significantly reduces the exclusion that happens to sites that put up a pay barrier since you probably already have access, and you get a lot for you money.

        Then, the members of WumpusPay distribute the revenues based on which newspapers are b

      • by WesternActor (300755) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @12:53PM (#27862363) Homepage

        I don't understand. Why do we need newspapers in 2009? Please note: I'm not talking about "news-gathering organizations," but newspapers. Technology has moved on and newspapers have not: By the time they come out, the news in them is always old. Always old. That was one thing in the days before the Internet and before the 24-hour news cycle introduced by CNN and FoxNews and similar channels, but it's very much another thing now and not something that's required by dint of its very existence. Likewise, the costs of producing newspapers are so stratospheric, that producing them is not a smart business decision. Again, once upon a time, that didn't matter: because there were classified and print advertisements. Those are, for all intents and purposes gone.

        Newspapers need to die. It's their time. This is not a bad thing. This is not a good thing. It's just the thing. There are other, better ways of distributing the news now. The idea that the only way for people to get news is to have a clump of newsprint pages thrown on your front porch (or in your driveway) every morning is ludicrous and has no relationship whatsoever to the society we live in.

        News-gathering organizations need to give up newspapers and find a way to distribute their work profitably on the web. I do not know how to do this, and I realize no one does. But no one is going to figure it out as long as they cling to the idea that the production of the paper is more important than what's printed ON the paper. And that's something that much of the newspaper industry--and apparently you--are still confusing.

        Frankly, I think it's best if news organizations remain for-profit. Not just because I don't want my tax dollars to have to subsidize the people who write The New York Times or The Los Angeles Times or any of the other publications that have nothing but contempt for me. But because it will force them to compete and offer better product. I find it more than a little distasteful that you advocate in favor of monopolies in your message; monopolies don't make anything better, they merely ensure that the status quo will never, ever change. But now it has to. And it will do so all the sooner--and much more effectively--if everyone is playing the game and figuring out the best way to one-up the other guy. That's how evolution in business happens.

        Newspapers have been ignoring this for decades. News-gathering organizations no longer have that luxury.

  • Anyone who has been watching/reading news corp material and comparing it to on the ground reality or watching the daily show at the same time know murdoch and his henchmen are losing grip with reality and receding into delusion.

    I look forward to him slowly losing his grip over news media by shutting out the majority of online readers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RobotRunAmok (595286)

      Anyone who has been watching/reading news corp material and comparing it to on the ground reality or watching the daily show at the same time know murdoch and his henchmen are losing grip with reality and receding into delusion.

      You're getting your news from a comedy show and you're concerned about Murdoch's grip on reality?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by floodo1 (246910)
        It just shows how bad the news is when a self-described comedy show presents a more accurate picture :(
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @10:58AM (#27860203) Journal
    This list shamelessly ripped from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
    • The Sun
    • News of the World
    • The Times
    • Sunday Times
    • The Daily Telegraph (Sydney)
    • The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney)
    • The Australian (national)
    • The Advertiser and Sunday Mail (Adelaide)
    • The Sunday Times (Perth)
    • Herald Sun (Melbourne)
    • Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne)
    • mX (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane)
    • The Courier-Mail (Brisbane)
    • Geelong Advertiser
    • Gold Coast Bulletin
    • The Mercury and Sunday Tasmanian (Hobart)
    • Northern Territory News (Darwin)
    • The Sunday Territorian (Darwin)
    • Sunday Star-Times
    • Papua New Guinea Post-Courier
    • The Fiji Times
    • New York Post
    • The Wall Street Journal
    • Times Herald Record

    Also, Murdoch, please be sure to notify Google that you don't want their help [slashdot.org] in gaining readership. I would also like to hear how you explain MySpace's massive success ... you only host that for free because it's user created content? You can't afford a staff with the money these sites bring in?

    Good luck, you're going to need it. I would claim a move that reduces readership in any way is a bold move by any news source.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by vertinox (846076)

      * The Sun
      * News of the World
      * The Times
      * Sunday Times
      * The Daily Telegraph (Sydney)
      * The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney)
      * The Australian (national)
      * The Advertiser and Sunday Mail (Adelaide)
      * The Sunday Times (Perth)
      * Herald Sun (Melbourne)

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:13AM (#27860515)
      If we get really lucky, he'll start charging for foxnews.com too.
    • by Animats (122034) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:21AM (#27860669) Homepage

      I would also like to hear how you explain MySpace's massive success

      What massive success? Myspace made about $75 million per quarter at peak. Their traffic peaked in Q1 2008, and is down 30% since then. Facebook passed them in April 2008 and now has 3x their traffic. Myspace never made enough of a blip in News Corp. earnings to show up as a line item.

      Social networking sites have a life cycle like nightclubs, and it's short. They start, if they're lucky they become cool, they grow, the losers move in, the cool people move out, and they decline. Has-been social networking sites include AOL, Geocities, EZboard, Nerve, Friendster, Orkut, and Tribe. Social networking sites have to be valued like movies - they have to make money over their run. They're not ongoing businesses. There's a long tail of trickling revenue after the peak, as with ongoing sales of DVDs of old movies. But the big money comes early if at all.

      That's problem #1 with social networking sites. Problem #2 is that the demographic is terrible from an advertiser perspective. Remember, half of all clicks come from 20% of users, and that 20% buys almost nothing. That 20% of users is Myspace's demographic.

      Myspace revenue comes mostly from their Google ads. Think about that for a moment. Myspace is a big site run by a bigger publisher with sizable ad-selling operations. Yet they're running Google ads, from which Google makes most of the money. If Murdoch could make online pay, they'd be selling their own ad space. The advertisers on Myspace are mostly either bottom-feeders (links to pages with more ads and similar junk) or small advertisers who haven't figured out how to opt out of having their ad appear there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928)

      How is MySpace a massive success? It doesn't make any fricking MONEY.

      It's not about readership. A zillion readers who don't pay is still useless. Ad revenue, especially internet ad revenue, just doesn't cut it.

      What you should be worried about as a consumer of free media is what happens when the New York Times, LA Time, Washington Post, and all the other top-tier papers follow suit? They are dying to do so, I assure you.

    • by jgalun (8930)

      Do you understand that it's a long, painful death for all newspapers right now? And that includes all those newspapers whose web sites are free to the public (the New York Times almost closed the Boston Globe last week!).

      Murdoch - who has built a multi-billion empire from a start in newspapers - may actually understand the newspaper business better than you do. My guess is that he is counting on most newspapers to go out of business. The advertising model is simply not profitable enough to support most news

  • I'll pay... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Centurix (249778) <centurix@noSpam.gmail.com> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @10:59AM (#27860207) Homepage

    If the content is interesting. I guess there's something "flawed" in Bob's business model as well.

  • Flawed comparison? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by silver007 (1479955) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @10:59AM (#27860225) Journal
    I can see people paying for a sub to the WSJ, but not some daily news site. People make a living off WSJ info, not so many off whether or not the swine flu spread to the depths of South Alabama overnight... Surely this genius' comment was taken out of context. I mean he's a 'mogul'... surely he knows better... surely, Shirley.
  • As Clay Shirky argued [shirky.com], the newspaper itself is somewhat misplaced in an era where it is nearly free to copy and distribute information. What's the point of arguing over whether your pig ought to be pink or brown - it still won't fly.

  • As we all know the Wall Street Journal has been succesful in charging for content, heck even I have a subscription there.

    The real trick there would be if they can pull together unique and novel content, and not just another AP feed in order to get a good online newspapaer. If WSJ can do it, there is plenty of reason to believe others can too.

    Frankly I see a lot of newspapers doing this in the future. My hometown paper, the Loveland Reporter Herald is a good candidate for this. They do fairly decent local

    • by Zordak (123132)

      As we all know the Wall Street Journal has been succesful in charging for content

      But people (at least ostensibly) use the WSJ to make money. So it can be considered a sort of investment. There is no way I'm going to pay any amount of money to let Rupert Murdoch and his cronies tell me what to think, and I think a lot of people feel the same. It's just not important enough to me.

    • by Dolohov (114209)

      I agree - local papers are the ones most likely to benefit from this approach. Most peoples' hometown news just doesn't merit coverage by the BBC or Washington Post or whatever. The smallest towns might not make quite enough for this - I figure you'd need an electronic subscriber base around 10,000 at $50/year to make it really viable. As more people go online, that's a target easier to reach for more small towns.

  • Its going to be said hundreds of times in this thread, but I'll say it anyway.

    Nobody will pay for content that used to be free.

    I'll miss WSJ.com but I'll get over it.

  • Do it Rupert. Now. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by flitty (981864)
    Please put your content behind a pay-wall so that it stops inadvertently polluting the rest of the newspool.
  • Screw them (Score:5, Informative)

    by vivek7006 (585218) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:02AM (#27860279) Homepage

    WSJ gives free access to premium content if you are being redirected from google, facebook, digg etc. Here is a dirty little secret. The entire content on WSJ is available to you for free, if you can trick WSJ into believing that you have been directed to their webpage via digg.com!

    Step1) Use firefox
    Step2) Install refspoof http://refspoof.mozdev.org/ [mozdev.org]
    Step3) Install greasemonkey https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/748 [mozilla.org]
    Step4) Install this script in greasemonkey http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/42134 [userscripts.org]
    Step5) Profit!!

    • Re:Screw them (Score:5, Informative)

      by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:14AM (#27860523)

      If you don't want to install that stuff, and you come upon WSJ articles infrequently then there is another trick:
      1. Click on the regular "for-pay" link.
      2. When you get to the irritating half-article thing, just cut the link from the toolbar.
      3. Paste it into a google search.
      4. Click on the first link that comes up and read the whole article.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:02AM (#27860287) Homepage

    The WSJ's content is as "newspaper of record" for financial items. Which means its unique.

    Additionally, how many of those "online" subscribers are dead-tree subscribers?

    For most other news, news outlets are substitutable. If you are a substitutable item, but you charge and your competition doesn't, you're out of luck.

  • As long as there is one free quality source for news, most people won't sign up.

    Or, to turn that statement around, the quality of the reporting would have to be a class or two above the free source for me to be willing to pay for it. Which may be why it worked for the Wall Street Journal.

    But then again, quality reporting is what News Corp is all about.

  • Go right ahead (Score:2, Informative)

    by Beetle B. (516615)

    Please, oh please do so, Mr Murdoch. Because I really want as much of your business as possible to fail.

  • Choice is key (Score:4, Interesting)

    by symes (835608) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:08AM (#27860385) Journal
    I happily pay for quality publications, broadsheets, the Economist, etc. I am also attracted to publications where jounalistic integrity is promoted and someones job is on the line when inaccuracies emerge. So, for me at least, it seems trivial to switch from printed to electronic content. However, I do not like subscribing - I like to browse and purchase magazines/newspapers that appeal to what I'm interested in at the time and what they might be covering - I occasionally buy publications that are far from where I am philosophically just to see what the other guys are saying. My worry is that proprietary formats will reduce choice and investing in whatever gadget electronic media is piped through will effectively coral me into just one segment of the news circus. So to attract customers like me they'll have to come up with an open format and one that offers me the same selection as a decent newspaper shop.
  • by ActusReus (1162583) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:12AM (#27860473)

    People are willing to pay for content in certain areas, particularly finance sources such as the WSJ or Economist, for three reasons... (1) such sources are based on a lot of exclusive research, and so much of their information can't easily be found elsewhere. (2) the nature of finance makes it worthwhile... if you're trading thousands to millions of dollars in securities or bonds, dropping $2 a week on useful information is awfully cost-effective. (3) the target market is pretty affluent and highbrow and thus less likely to blink over this sort of thing (the fact that you're not giving it away for free actually makes it look more prestigious and attractive).

    However, these considerations fall apart when you turn to non-niche mainstream news. Looking at the "free" content aggregated by Google News... it's about 50% celebrity gossip, and 50% partisan political bickering with no insightful analysis behind anything. Thanks but no thanks... I'm not paying for any of that, and I doubt many others would either.

    THAT is the main problem with newspapers' business models in the current climate. They are trying to compete with online sources by racing to the bottom, and dumbing down their content in hopes of reaching a wider audience. However, their main competitive advantage is in the highbrow market... which is increasingly alienated by this dumbing-down. Produce exclusive highbrow content that can't easily be found elsewhere, and you'll absolutely be in a position to charge. Write endlessly about Anna Nicole's "baby-daddy" and Britney Spears' breakdowns, and you shouldn't expect any revenue beyond advertising because you can find that trash anywhere.

  • by pavon (30274) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:13AM (#27860495)

    If so people will pay for it. If you are just regurgitating AP and/or Reuters people will not. The Wall Street Journal and The Economist provide something unique, and have been successful with subscriptions (the fact that they cater to moneyed-folk helps too). To a lesser extent the New York Post and Christian Science Monitor provide unique information and may have luck transitioning to a subscription model.

    As for the rest of the newpapers that News Corporation owns, yeah I don't think so. Some of the ones that I'm not familiar with may have sufficient unique content, but most of them don't look like it. Good luck making The Sun subscription only. The online portion of that magazine thrives on ignorant (or amused) blog linking, and would loose nearly all of it's traffic if it went subscription only.

  • The reason that the wall street journal is able to charge for access to its website is that it comes up with quality articles based on independent reporting that people are willing to pay for.

    With articles like Dont tax bigger boobs during crunch [thesun.co.uk] The sun is Murdoch's only hope to achieve a business model similar to that of the Wall Street Journal.
  • by orin (113079) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:15AM (#27860549)
    Increasingly web users are blocking advertising content using tools like ad-block. This trend will only continue. As a content producer you have little to lose by switching to a pay model. What do you have to gain by giving your content away for free (with advertisements on the page) when increasing numbers of people visiting your site use software to block the very things that bring your site revenue? Most people, if they were aware of the option of blocking all advertisements on the Internet, would take it. How do you cover the costs of generating and serving your content if it gets to the stage where the majority of people block advertisements and aren't willing to pay a subscription fee?
  • by Twillerror (536681) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @11:17AM (#27860587) Homepage Journal

    I'm totally fine paying for an electronic paper. For many sitting down at the breakfast table with your paper, reading it on the train, or having it next to the toilet is great. I'm going to miss some of the things the physical paper can bring.

    I like to linking to stories and all, but sometimes I want the real deal and even with 3G I'd still like a properly formated thing without stupid flash ads off to the side. A decent app for my cell phone or something like the kindle would be great.

    I'd be happy to pay 5 bucks a month for the a paper in some electronic form. And yes it'll be pirated to all hell, but even though a lot on here won't believe me...some people actually like to pay for things...the whole keeping the system moving forward....some of us did grow up after all.

  • Everyone is going to give as example the WSJ or Financial Times. These are not consumer oriented newspapers. At least in the US they can be a tax write off, which the clever person will use to minimize the taxable profit, and perhaps even lower the tax bracket. This is the same as the Hummer. It might cost $800K, but the taxpayer probably has covered well over 50% of the cost, making it cheaper than a top of the line Toyota.

    This is much more akin to the average car, which people are not buying in drov

  • It is not a stupid idea, because it is the only one that makes sense at all. You've made something that costs you money. You want to live from it. You you gotta sell it. Simple as that.
    The real point is, that the price and the money that it's worth to the clients have to match, for it to work.
    So if they go the way of the **AA, it will certainly fail. And this is what you "goodluckwiththat" people imply.
    But if they really put a nice price tag on it. (Like 1 cent per article read. or $1 a month for a subscription.), And then use that additional money to make their business work better, and then ask a bit more for it (2-5 cent for special articles. Maybe $1.5 a month.). Then they've got a working business model.
    The only thing they need to start, is news that you can't get anywhere else. Special insight. Exclusive interviews. Reporters traveling to places where no-one else goes, finding stories that no-one else has. And no bullshit about Britney or Obama ordering a burger, etc. Then you got something that is worth my money.

  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig@hogger.gmail@com> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @01:55PM (#27863553) Homepage Journal
    This is silly. WSJ readers will gladly pay for their "contents" because they have money, they are indoctrinated with "you get what you pay for" and they view themselves to be above the fray, and such privilege must have a cost.

    On the other hand, the great ignorant unwashed masses the extreme right rely on for political support will not pay for something they can get for free elsewhere.

    Although this is a boneheaded move, it will be beneficial because it will shink Murdoch's audience to the point of political irrelevance, which will allow a resurgence of socialism.

  • by ubrgeek (679399) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:18PM (#27868307)
    It's not shit. Rupert, when your products can say the same, let me know.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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