News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch is determined to charge readers for the online content of his newspapers--and says they'll be paying sooner rather than later.
In a conference call with analysts and journalists after the release of the media and entertainment giant's quarterly results, Murdoch said The Wall Street Journal has proven newspapers can charge for online content. Asked specifically if he envisioned charging readers for that content from his general interest newspapers such as The Times of London or The Sun, Murdoch replied, "We are absolutely looking at that. Very much so."
He added, "I would think you will see some [papers charging] within the next 12 months."
Murdoch told analysts that News Corp. is "certainly planning" to charge for content at all its newspapers, adding, "but we will have to just test it first on some of our stronger ones."
What Murdoch will not do is create a Kindle-like device or follow that subscription model to charge for content, he said. "We are not appliance makers," Murdoch said.
"I can assure you we will not be feeding our content rights to the fine people who created the Kindle," he said in prepared remarks for the call. "We will control the prices for our content and we will control the relationship with our customers. Any device maker or Web site which doesn't meet these basic criteria on content will not be doing business long term with News Corporation."
Murdoch also sounded an optimistic note about getting digital to pay off. He said it would take just "a couple of years" to reach the point where digital revenue fully makes up lost print revenue.
"I hope it's less but it may be a little bit more," he said. "We are working very hard over this and there are a lot of things that we are looking at. There is one thing charging; there is another thing, the use of which I referred to in my remarks, the use of mobile readers of newspapers.
"We don't believe in the Kindle business model but we are very interested and think it's very significant that so many people go to that for their newspaper or go to their Blackberries, for that matter, to get their news. And we--you know, there's a lot of ways we can make money out of our content, over and above advertising."