News Corp. To Charge For Internet Content

We haven’t really coved this, but earlier in the week News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch told analysts that visitors to the web sites of newspapers owned by News Corp. will have to start paying fees for content within the next year.

Among the news sites they own are The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and The Sun, a popular British tabloid. The Wall Street Journal already charges for premium content, and they make a lot of money from it. According to one report Britain’s Sunday Times will be the test site for the new strategy. The New York Times has already tried charging a fee for premium content and it was a spectacular bust.

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers offers an interesting alternative:

So how does a newspaper company make money? By licensing its journalistic content to other companies that can use the valuable content to sell its own services. Who are these companies that may be willing to pay for content? Start with cable and Telcos who sell internet access to consumers.

Before you dismiss the idea out of hand, it’s worth noting that this is exactly what ESPN, and other sports leagues are doing – negotiating exclusive or ISP based access to portions of their content. Want access to every NFL game this year? That’s a DirecTV exclusive (NFL Sunday Ticket) so you’ll have to dump your cable company or Dish Network and move to DirecTV. Don’t worry they’ll make it easy… Want to watch ESPN 360 (I’ve got no idea what it is), you better hope your ISP offers it. The same goes for sports broadcasts over the internet – there’s a patchwork of coverage which you may (or may not) get depending on who your access provider carries the league or network’s product.

In theory this could work for News Corp. as well. By licensing to large ISP’s they avoid one of the main problems of selling access to their content to end users. Aside from the breasts of Page 3 girls, they don’t really have a monopoly on content. For straight news there’s little that the collection of News Corp. sites offer that others don’t. Opinion pages and tabloid content are the natural choices for paywalls, but even that has drawbacks. Page Six might be the widest read gossip page in the newspaper world, but given all the online alternatives would you really pay to read Page Six via the web when the same information will show up on gossip blogs and other tabloids?

Probably not…

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