News Corp.’s Carey: Consistency For Pay Walls Is Key

carey.jpgWhen Chase Carey speaks, the media world listens. And rightfully so. As Rupert Murdoch’s number two, News Corp.’s COO’s opinions do have a certain amount of clout.

This morning, at the Media and Money Conference, hosted by Nielsen and Dow Jones, Carey spoke about a number of topics — from Comcast seeking majority ownership of NBC Universal to the future of network television to pay walls for online journalism.

Carey said he thought the NBCU deal “makes sense for Comcast,” adding that it is a “pretty smartly structured deal” for the company. He also seemed pretty excited about the fact that the deal would test the regulatory waters under the new administration, perhaps setting the stage for or heading off other deals in the future. “These are uncharted waters with major issues with two big companies,” he said.

Carey seemed positive that the major players involved would be left with “regulatory baggage” after the deal was completed, although he doubted any assets would have to be sold.

As for pay walls, which News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal has excelled at and Murdoch has pushed to extend across all his brands, Carey emphasized consistency. He said he was interested in “creating a great experience around content itself,” adding that people will pay for value and a good experience. “Quality journalism has value,” he said.

Later, when a reporter quizzed him about Murdoch’s plans to take his sites off Google and the Journal‘s leaky wall, Carey said he wanted the pay wall to remain consistent — if only subscribers can access certain content on, then others shouldn’t get it for free. But, there is some content you can get for free on the site, Carey pointed out. He didn’t outline any plans for creating the consistency he championed.

More from the Media and Money Conference, after the jump

m&m panel.jpg
From left: Alan Patricof, founder and managing director of Greycroft; Herb Scannell, co-founder Next New Networks; Time Inc.’s Kirk McDonald; Starcom’s Lisa Donohue; Steven Brill of Journalism Online and moderator David Faber

Before Carey took the stage, the conference hosted a panel on the future of the media. Moderated by CNBC’s David Faber, the panel tackled a common theme facing media companies today: “Where do we go from here?”

While Journalism Online co-founder Steven Brill was optimistic about the future of print, he admitted that newspapers now have the burden of creating content that is distinctive enough to charge their readers more for, and then advertising dollars will follow.

Kirk McDonald
, president of Digital at Time Inc., made a distinction between “lean forward” content — search enabled content that can include news and sports — and “lean back” content found in magazines and longer investigative pieces. “Lean back” content requires “a certain amount of access to get,” he said, adding that readers will be willing to pay for that access. “We have to prove the audience is there.”

“As a consumer, brands are still important to us,” said Lisa Donohue, CEO of Starcom USA. “That’s not changing.” What will change? How content providers use their brand to reach consumers.

We’ve been to lots of these panels, where statements are made but no plans for how to fix the broken business model are brought up. Brill had a few. What about paying aggregators — the sites that Murdoch calls “parasites” — and turning them into sales agents? We’re not sure exactly how that would work, and who would benefit most, but it’s an idea. “If you have something that is good, it can be seen by many more people,” Brill said.

No matter what the future brings, Brill said “the jig is up” on the idea that online revenue could sustain papers and replace what they once made in print ad revenues. So the question still remains: where do we go from here?