If Murdoch jumps, will the rest follow?

To my question : “What lord of the nature decreed that newspapers had an exclusive right to the internet?”, the Guardian adds: “ Who made the rule that everything on the internet should be free?” Answering its own question, it confesses media bosses themselves were responsible, treating the internet first as a cute showcase, then an affordable loss leader, before the transformative power of new media finally hit them. Now Rupert Murdoch, faced with a $2 billion loss has decided to cut the crap and charge. It’s one hell of a gamble for him and – let’s be honest – a time of anxiety for folk like us. We’ve had a great free ride. If Rupert jumps will they all jump together? Past experience suggests yes. Down the decades it has been Murdoch through predatory pricing who has sweated out his own losses to smash the competition. But that was for market share. Looking at the future Guardian media for example, this looks like a battle for survival. But with comparatively small sums involved in the newspaper business compared with the whole electronic waterfront – need it be?

Murdoch’s results show that it was his forays into Fox Interactive in the form of MySpace at least as much as newspaper losses that bear responsibility for the writedown. As with the ITV losses and its dumping of Friends Reunited to the Beano, old management has got its fingers badly burnt in this transitional phase of the media revolution. We’ve just been told that Everybody out there seems to value it higher in their lives than everything except food ; but will they be willing to pay when electronic leakage is so easy? Aware of this, Murdoch is likely to adopt a charging model more like his own Wall St Journal and the FT than the New York Times.

The New York Times hoisted a pay wall around its columnists, only to find that everyone stopped reading them. After their precious journo-stars started to complain, the Times abandoned the strategy, but it led directly to the birth of the Huffington Post, a free comment website that provides a far more wide-ranging daily analysis of the US political scene.

But Murdoch executives will have to do better than WSJ boss (and former Times editor) Robert Thomson

The Wall Street Journal editor, Robert Thomson, notably called websites that aggregate other people’s news “parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet

The weakness in Thomson’s argument is that the affluent may be willing to pay for immediate specialised financial reporitng and analysis ( and even that, only if it’s hot); for the rest, there are just too many alternative sources of news out there, led by the BBC but not only the BBC.

Murdoch should be careful about trying to lead a hunt pack against the Corporation. He will have its considerable public value to contend with. Whatever the charging model, I suspect the traditional media will have to do deals with aggregator sites like Huffpost, Google and Yahoo News. The horses in the newspaper stable have bolted. In the short term advertising, the first to fall in a slump is the first to return as it subsides, though probably with smaller shares all round this time. In the medium term, companies like Murdoch’s Newscorp may not be the face of the future. No business model possesses the magic bullet. Part of the answer surely lies with some of the huge new enterprises right along the block , from Microsoft to Google. The future fate of the internet must not rest with micro-communication like Facebook and Twitter on the one hand, and the power of governments and conglomerates on the other. The people must be served.

  • abu nicola

    through predatory pricing

    Isn’t that against some law? If so is there proof or may you just have libelled the bastard quite nice gentleman?

  • sinless

    Murdoch has probably done his homework but he is an old white man. I sat down yesterday and flciked through the Sun, Mirror, D Mail, Times and Telegraph. The Tekepgraph is the only one i would actually buy. Around half of the Star/Sun/Times seems to be made up of celebrity guff (including non sport stories about thug Gerrard etc).

    On the net, things usually go for free.

    Mind you, charging mught be good as less of us would use it. Who really wants to keep up with celbrity tittle tattle? (Loads really but at the end of the day….)

  • willis

    Let’s be honest, would you pay for the current Times site?

    What a mess!

    It is like walking into Woolworth’s 2 years ago and thinking “Why does this business survive?”

    The Torygraph and the Daily Hate are great sites especially the Torygraph.

    The BBC news site is soooooo worthy it is a good job it is gonna stay free.

    Be careful Rupe, if Google really went for it you would be toast.

  • Gréagoir O Frainclín

    Ah fuck ’em and his monopoly of papers and his SKY TV, etc… The Berlusconi of the ‘British’ isles.

    Who’d pay for the likes of this shite…


  • sinless

    Grag: Fact is most young Irish Catholic men do buy that shite. They prefer that shite over competing shite. Therein lies a problem.