There has been a lot of articles written lately on Rupert Murdoch's latest comments regarding the need to charge online readers for the content they access to the business model The Wall Street Journal utilizes. Murdoch recently announced that additional News Corp's newspapers would be charging users access to their online content.
Speaking on a conference call as News Corporation announced a 47 percent slide in quarterly profits to $755 million, Murdoch said the current free access business model favored by most content providers was flawed.
"We are now in the midst of an epochal debate over the value of content and it is clear to many newspapers that the current model is malfunctioning," the News Corp. Chairman and CEO said.
"We have been at the forefront of that debate and you can confidently presume that we are leading the way in finding a model that maximizes revenues in return for our shareholders... The current days of the Internet will soon be over."
That pay for content business model that Murdoch wishes to spread to the the rest of the News Corp holdings has worked pretty well for the WSJ. Yearly subscription to WSJ.com is around $100 and the business news site recently introduced a cheaper micro-payment system. Deane Barker recently pointed out this story on his Gadgetopia blog. Barker points out that this business model could possibly work for additional online news sources, but Murdoch needs "another big player on the bandwagon, and he might kick the snowball off the hill. Gannet? New York Times Company?". Barker's point is that for News Corp's subscription model to work, access to news content needs to be limited at other places online too. In my opinion, a fight against free online content is a war that has already been lost.
As a subscriber to the WSJ in both print and online content, I do see paid online subscriptions working for niche news sites. I however have serious doubts that the model can work for general news. People are willing to pay and only pay for content they can get nowhere else online. The news articles found in the WSJ is unique content and since its also content of value, I'm willing to pay for it. However, reporting general news is a much different game. Even if the majority of newspapers started charging access to their content it only takes one newspaper willing to offer that same story for free to break the pay for access model.