PAID IN FULL: How convinced is Rupert Murdoch that readers will learn to pay for online journalism? He bought a newsstand and invested in a cash register. News Corp. on Monday acquired Skiff LLC, Hearst Corp.’s still-incubating content-distribution platform, and revealed a separate investment in Journalism Online, a start-up cofounded by Steve Brill that provides Web payment options to publishers. The company did not provide financial terms of either deal, though Journalism Online did say News Corp.’s minority stake gives the media giant a seat on the start-up’s five-member board.
Skiff looks to follow the iTunes model for distributing newspaper and magazine content to tablets and e-readers, with special attention to print media standards like layouts, graphics and typography. Hearst has backed the service since its inception about three years ago and planned to roll it out later this year. A News Corp. spokeswoman said Monday the new ownership did not yet have a timetable for Skiff’s launch. Hearst had also previewed a proprietary Skiff e-reader, but the News Corp. spokeswoman said the company had only acquired the platform, and the device “stays with Hearst.” News Corp.’s investment in Journalism Online, meanwhile, should give a boost to the company’s Press+ revenue-collection service, which aims to provide publishers with a number of methods — such as content-themed subscriptions and metered access — to collect payments from online readers. A spokeswoman for Journalism Online said that, while some are in testing, no publishers have rolled the service out to consumers yet. The company has amassed 1,500 letters of intent from potential publishers.
News Corp. tapped Jon Housman, who has worked as a consultant for the company for several years, to play shopkeeper for the new ventures as president of digital journalism initiatives.
— Matthew Lynch