In his column this week, New York Times media critic David Carr took on News Corp. head honcho Rupert Murdoch and his recent pronouncement that all of his newspaper and television news channels would soon charge for access to their online content.
“Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting,” Murdoch said during News Corp.’s earnings call last week. “The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news Web sites.”
Although Murdoch boasted that, if his model was successful, other media companies would follow his lead, Carr pointed out that many publications have already tried pay models, with varying levels of success. Instead, Carr questioned Murdoch’s level of commitment to his plan:
“Setting aside the execution risk of such a plan, it’s difficult to tell how serious Mr. Murdoch is, given his history of grand statements that were only that. Perhaps he was making an unsubtle effort to change the subject during a bleak earnings call for News Corporation…”
Carr also points out (as we did last week) that there is a difference between paying for the content of some of Murdoch’s properties, like The Wall Street Journal, versus those considered more low brow, like The New York Post or even Fox News’ Web site:
“The problem, both for Mr. Murdoch and the industry at large, is that it’s dangerous to generalize the success of The Wall Street Journal or The Financial Times with paid subscriptions on the Web to other media properties. Those newspapers contain useful data, with a network of alerts and specialized features that make them extremely valuable to people who need up-to-the-minute information to do business.
“While I am a sucker for a Page Six item revealing that Paris Hilton has achieved dÃ©tente with a former frenemy, I’m not about to pay for that information. Much of the news that News Corporation produces is already a commodity by the time it hits the Web.”
Carr’s not alone. Based on the (very unscientific) poll we posted last week, 88 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t pay to read the Post. Although we’re fans of P6, we can’t imagine paying just for the option to read it online everyday. If it’s more than the cost of the paper on the newsstand, we’ll find a way to get up and walk to the corner bodega. Come to think of it, if everyone feels like us, then Murdoch’s plan might not be a bad way to save print journalism.
Murdoch has been talking about saving papers in one way or another for a long time. Below we have a video of him from June, discussing how all papers will be digital within 10 years. By then, let’s hope he’s figured out a good paywall system.