News Corp.’s Digital Chief Supports Paid Content

Paid digital media services are the wave of the future for media giants, and the only question is how fast they will become reality, News Corp. chief digital officer Jonathan Miller said here Tuesday evening, adding that the conglomerate will push to develop new business models that work for the industry overall.

“We will see a return to multiple revenue streams,” Miller predicted after his chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch recently hinted more of his empire’s digital content offers may carry a price tag in the future.

“Free versus pay is one of the really big issues out there,” and this is the time the industry seems ready to find answers, he said.

Later on, Miller added: “We want to see a [business] model established,” one that includes paid-for journalistic offers. He signaled that while new models must be established across the industry, News Corp. is willing to take a lead position to push for change.

Asked about how News Corp. could promote its various assets across print, TV and digital media under a new pay model, Miller suggested: “What works for consumers, I think—and this has to be tested—are bundles.”

For example, News Corp.’s various papers or various New York media outlets, including the New York Post, could be bundled.

Asked specifically about the future of online video joint venture Hulu, which is currently advertising-supported, he said it “is an environment for premium content.” Pointing to the popularity of iPhone applications, he added: “We’re seeing the beginning of a very strong app economy.”  

Miller spoke in one of his first public appearances since his appointment, speaking to Andrew Wallenstein, digital editor of The Hollywood Reporter, at midtown Mahattan’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. At the event, THR honored the digital media veteran with the inaugural Digital Power Player award as part of Internet Week New York. Also in attendance were many of the industry executives on THR’s annual list of top 50 digital players.

Discussing MySpace, Miller said its problems are product-driven, meaning the social networking site requires improvement of its features and service offerings.

Miller said the new MySpace management team is “hard at work” at developing solutions, saying media-centric offers are definitely one focus. A report by THR (and Mediaweek) parent Nielsen Tuesday showed MySpace is still a leader in online video, even though Facebook and Twitter have seen stronger subscriber growth.

Miller also confirmed that News Corp. is looking at helping with hardware partners a new device for digital media content. “We’re looking at it end-to-end,” he said without providing further details on the potential device.