James Murdoch has no use for the Internet-is-free crowd. The CEO of News Corp. Europe and Asia said finding a business model for news in the digital era isn't all that complicated.
"If you're going to monetize something, you should probably not give it away for free," he said during a Q&A at the Monaco Media Forum. "I think digital newspapers' economics will look a lot more like cable channels."
It's a long road to get there. The Wall Street Journal has been able to charge for access because most of its subscribers are using corporate credit cards. But the jury is out on subscriptions elsewhere in the empire. The Times and Sunday Times were put behind a pay wall in July. News Corp. last week crowed it has sold 105,000 digital products, a roll-up that doesn't break out monthly subscriptions. Some estimates put that figure at just 10,000 per month at the expense of most of its Web traffic.
Murdoch said publishers need to be willing to sacrifice wide reach in the process. The upside is those that pay tend to spend much more time with the publication, he added.
"We're happy to invest more and price it fairly and accept the fact that not everyone will pay," he said.
The belief in free is an article of faith for the tech world. Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired, even wrote an entire book on the economics of business models based around technology enabling free services. Those views aren't in tune with reality when it comes to media, Murdoch said. They rarely, for example, take into account the chain of professionals that need to get paid along the way for the production of quality content.
"There's no new technology that makes athletes less greedy," he said.
The invitation-only Monaco Media Forum, which continues through Nov. 12, gathers approximately 300 global leaders in traditional and new media for discussions about the future of online, broadcast and print.
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