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News Corp to begin charging for online access

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has announced that within the next 12 months, it will begin to require a fee for online access of it’s websites.

The strategy to extract fees from online readers, which is still lacking in many details, has more than a little bit of a “damn the torpedoes” mentality to it, but Murdoch noted that if his plan is successful, “we’ll be followed by all media.” Could this be the beginning of the end for free news on the Internet? Murdoch is hugely influential and could orchestrate a sea change for his contemporaries in the news business. And he’s in good company. His explanation that charging for news was natural because “quality journalism is not cheap” was virtually identical to the phrasing used by New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller in an interview last December with NPR.

While I concede that “free” can work for those with loss-leader products, for those of us whose content IS the product, I can only hope that this begins a trend that challenges the mentality of free. I can hope, but I’m still pretty skeptical.

Hat Tip: MJ Editorial Cartoonist

Community Comments

#1 Henry Clausner
August/7/2009
@ 9:52 am

This looks like the beginning of the end people….

#2 Jason Nocera
August/7/2009
@ 10:44 am

I hope it works. A lot of people argue that it will flop because people can easily get free online content elsewhere. He’ll need exclusive content to entice subscribers. Maybe an exclusive cartoonist or two….

#3 Mike Lester
August/7/2009
@ 10:53 am

An obviously welcome idea that will hopefully get “legs”.
Daniel Lyons in Newsweek 8/3/09.
http://www.newsweek.com/id/208163

#4 Alan Jones
August/7/2009
@ 11:53 am

Well I think this NEEDS to work. Hi quality professional journalism, along with a lot of other quality products and services, should not be free.

There’s plenty of other free sources of information, and folks are always welcome to that. The market online needs to follow the rest of capitalistic industry: “you pay for the real deal” or, “you get what you pay for.”

This is just one of what I view as several first steps in corrective, evolutionary adjustments to moving what is not-so-much online to much-more online. As it should.

#5 Tom Wood
August/7/2009
@ 1:07 pm

@Alan Jones – I agree, a paid model is needed to support quality product. That, plus a better way for advertisers to target just the audience they want to reach.

#6 Woodrow
August/7/2009
@ 1:33 pm

Money,money,money,remember there is freedom of speech as long as you don’t have much to say,and Rupert Murdoch,General Electic,wal-mart, and on an on ,agree with you. Support each other, we are the grass roots and the internet, lettuce not allow fear and scarcity ,to control us, now and again,
think it out before we jump on the old school bandwagon again…

#7 Jesse Cline
August/7/2009
@ 1:40 pm

“Hi quality professional journalism, along with a lot of other quality products and services”

we are talking about News Corp, right?

#8 Mike Lester
August/7/2009
@ 2:19 pm

At first I thought, “wtf???” and then decided you’re right, Woodrow. Money? Who needs it? And that’s exactly what I’m going to tell the power, gas, water, mortgage etc. company when they send me a bill. Stinking capitalists! Charging for content is pure demon greed.

But I have a question: how do I pay for the electricity to run my computer to post my work if I give said work away for free? And what value does the consumer have of my work if I price it at zero? I’m all for giving stuff away for free, but you’ve got to get EVERYBODY to do it. And I mean EVERYbody. Then we’d be one big Yasgur’s farm.

If you could get back to me on that I’d appreciate the tip. I’ve got a country club bill to pay.

#9 Wiley Miller
August/7/2009
@ 3:54 pm

Freedom of speech? What does the First Amendment have to do with this?

And once again I ask, why is it so much to ask to follow Alan’s rules on HIS blog about posting your full name?

#10 Alan Gardner
August/7/2009
@ 4:27 pm

Firstly, yes, please use full name.

Secondly – I don’t want this to turn into another war about giving away stuff for free. It is SILLY to argue that it is a binary decision that one has to choose between. The market should support all types of business models – including the option to pay for a site subscription to get premium content.

I brought up this article because I’m hoping that if it proves successful, other sites will follow suit and we can make the paid model stronger that it currently is. Why? Because at some point, I want to start charging you a subscription to access this blog. :)

#11 Brian Powers
August/7/2009
@ 7:06 pm

I hope it works. I was wanting to see a paid premium content example to follow online. Is there another one out there? I think the New York Times has an online subscription for some things as well as the Wall Street Journal. Any others?

#12 Mike Peterson
August/8/2009
@ 4:05 am

The Wall Street Journal has been successful with a pay system but it’s (A) a pretty select group and (B) a lot of those subscribers can not just write it off but voucher it.

The NYTimes tried a paid interface in which the columnists and some other news content was pay-only while the stuff about spending $3,000 for a motel and dinner in chi-chi land was free. So the people who could afford to drop $50 on a web site got their stuff for free and the people who just wanted to know what was up with the economy were supposed to pay. I’d have gone the other direction.

Problem I’m seeing is that sites want to charge roughly what you’d pay for your local paper (in print), which, “fair” or not, isn’t good marketing. I pay my $12 a year for a comics site because, heck, it’s only $12 bucks a year and I really like comics. But I’m not paying much of anything to read a paper that isn’t from my own community — it doesn’t make sense.

To make this work, you have to either (A) enable micropayments or (B) charge little enough that you are serving more than the truly fanatical fans.

At which point, it’s about time. (There is a model floating that would allow X-number of free visits per month before requiring pay. I like that, if the pay requested is reasonable.)

#13 Phil Wohlrab
August/8/2009
@ 7:13 am

On one hand I don’t like to pay to view things on the internet. I think you’ve really got to be something special to get a subscription sale out of someone. But I think Microstock sites such as (shutterstock) have a feel-good payment system of changing 25 cents for photos and vector art downloads. I’ve been on this thing for a year, put up 20 vector images nine jpgs and made ninety bucks. That’s money I wouldn’t have had otherwise. You really need a library of hundreds of images and for some it’s a part time job if you’re really good. I think you can also sell flash videos.

why not allow for high res downloads of comic strips for 25cents each? 50 cents for sundays? It ads up quick and readers get something a little more tangible for their money.. something to stick on their fridge and you get 25 cents that you would not have gotten otherwise had you been changing for a years subscription. I would definitely buy a high res classic peanuts or Far Side strip to frame on my wall. I know many will probably think their precious art is worth much more than mere “clip art”. The price of one’s ego can be very expensive.

#14 Donna Barstow
August/9/2009
@ 1:16 am

It’s very sad, but I admit that I, too, would pay $5 a month for Facebook.

And I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the paid sites like premium Gocomics and Comics.com! I don’t know Comics, but Gocomics charges only $1 a month – geez Louise, that’s reasonable, for no ads, and unlimited archives. Well worth it.

#15 Mike Donahue
August/10/2009
@ 9:46 am

Comics.com recently went to free content, although registration is still required. Curiously, their e-mail delivery has become somewhat irregular. Maybe we get what we pay for?

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