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Risky Business: News Corp. To Charge For Online Content

The Last Mogul will either be the first innovator or...the last mogul.

The "Last Mogul" will either be the first innovator or...the last mogul.

It happens in many of our favorite action movies. The hero has been outsmarted. He’s up against the wall and the pirate/ninja/dragon/girlfriend has the upper hand. The hero is out of options. Will we see him fall? Assuredly so…unless …unless of course he can pull off the riskiest of moves. He has no other options but to swing on a rope onto another ship/use a forbidden martial arts move that could leave him defenseless or deal a fatal blow/roll underneath the beast, avoid napalm-like flame and plunge his sword deep into its belly/feign sickness to get out of the scrabble triple date. This is the news industry. It’s zero hour. And it’s their move.

And so it is amidst these dire circumstances that Rupert Murdoch decided that his success with the Wall Street Journal is enough to test the waters of monetizing online news across all of his newspapers by June 2010. The New York Post, the UK’s Times and the Sun, and Australia’s Daily Telegraph are just some of the newspapers he owns besides the WSJ.

As I blogged about a couple of weeks ago some companies are trying to get ahead of this coming wave of news organizations trying to figure out how to receive revenue for quality journalism. The trick is that they must provide a price point or a pay model that retains enough readers so that advertisers don’t jump ship. Whether news organizations use an intermediary or develop their own system, it’s clear that they will have to create a delicate balance between opposing forces.

If Murdoch succeeds? Besides inflating his ego, it will save newspapers. Plain and simple. In an era where classified advertising went to Craigslist, newspapers would receive a life preserver in the form of revenue injection across the board. If it fails? News Corp. will stumble badly but I don’t think it can get much worse for other news organizations. The worst of the recession has passed by most accounts and newspapers are hurting, but they are surviving.

So the movie will play out in front of our eyes. The trouble–of course–is that at the end of movies you leave the theater happy. In real life? The good guys don’t always win.

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  1. Cherica
    August 6, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    I love the action movie analogy. On a serious note however, I am highly doubtful that the recession stricken consumer, regardless of their previous affinity to a particular newspaper “brand”, would opt to PAY to read about current events/news online, when there are still so many free options readily available. I must not see what Murdock sees…

    • Adrian Carrasquillo
      August 7, 2009 at 12:10 am

      I mean that’s the big question. News consumers have shown that they will pay for a product if its content is unique enough and fulfills a niche that they are interested in. ESPN does it with ESPN insider and News Corp. does it with the Wall Street Journal but will a general news site be able to attract paying customers? If the New York Post is charging won’t I just go to the Daily News? Most likely. But what if they’re both charging along with the New York Times and Newsday? Is Am New York going to be enough? Will I go to a New York City news site that springs up? Will I just go to an existing online news site or news mag? It’s going to be interesting to see what pay models organizations decide on and what the level of overall involvement they end up with.

  2. Vanessa
    August 10, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Interesting…….

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