Where Murdoch leads, others will follow

“That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal’s experience,” says Rupert Murdoch. “The current days of the internet are over” Well if they are, we’ll all be the poorer for it. I always thought it was ironic that the papers which reported money, the WSJ and the FT, charged for content (although the FT allows you so many free hits a month). Charging for specialist content is one thing, paying out for the general run of the papers is quite another. The Irish News charges as you know, as it otherwise fears a landslide in revenue if it didn’t. The once free Irish Times now charges at a whopping rate for its terrific archive, where once it didn’t, and now exploits the daily content as a come hither. I’m left feeling resentful, no doubt unfairly. Resentment can drive readers away. Doesn’t loyalty to a paper matter any more? Or has sentiment been thrown over as a marketing factor in the struggle to survive? The main threat from blanket charging would surely fall on the broadsheets. Can you imagine people paying out for the Sun when you can get sun, sex and celebs in the giveaways? The risk is people would desert the papers wholesale and rely on the “free” BBC websites for standard news and on blogs for opinion. And where would we be then? For the pro and cons for the survival of journalism in the digital age, dip into this dialogue from Prospect, if you haven’t seen it already.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London