News Corp. chairman and chief executive officer Rupert Murdoch said he intends to expand the model of having customers pay for news content online to the company’s entire stable of publications. Speaking at a two-day Federal Trade Commission workshop in Washington on the future of journalism in the Internet age, Murdoch said, “Quality content is not free.
“In the future, good journalism will depend on the ability of news organizations to attract customers by providing news and information [and they will] be willing to pay for it,” he said. “The old business model based on advertising only is dead.”
Murdoch pointed to The Times of London and The Australian as two titles he plans to start charging customers to read online. He said The Wall Street Journal’s Web site has been a successful pay model and now has more than one million subscribers, while barrons.com has 150,000.
“Let’s face it: A business model that relies primarily on online advertising cannot sustain newspapers over the long term,” Murdoch said. “Critics say people won’t pay. I believe they will. Our customers are smart enough to know you don’t get something for nothing.”
Murdoch also said News Corp. has been working on a two-year project to use a portion of its broadcast spectrum “to bring our television offerings and maybe even our newspaper content to mobile devices.” He said the company is considering e-readers as a possible platform, though it has no intention of getting into the hardware business.
In another move to keep up with the rapidly evolving news landscape, News Corp. soon will launch The Wall Street Journal “professional edition,” which Murdoch said will “bring together the Wall Street Journal online and Dow Jones Factiva by giving our reader instantaneous access to breaking news.”
“In short, we believe fiercely that the key to competing during these difficult times is to invest more in journalistic content, not less,” Murdoch said.
John Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, said another workshop will be held in the spring to examine possible government policy proposals to help support news media, ranging from antitrust exemptions to changes to copyright laws to cross-ownership restrictions and government subsidies similar to those provided for public radio and broadcast stations.
Media organizations will have to think about what they do and ascribe a value to the content they produce, said Robert Thomson, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and editor in chief of Dow Jones & Co. But, he cautioned, “the cost to society of not being able to afford specialist journalism is going to be profound. It’s great to have a cacophony of voices, there’s no doubt the crowd has found its voice, but what will it be discussing? — Kristi Ellis and Liza Casabona