Watch out Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is now in the digital news reader market having acquired Skiff, a Hearst-backed tech start-up, that helps distribute newspapers and magazine content and could provide stiff competition to the iPad.
Murdoch has been one of the strongest proponents of building paywalls around newspapers and wants to follow on the success of successful properties like the Wall Street Journal and The Times of London.
Murdoch has acquired Skiff LLU, a maker of a flexible news reader device, as well as a company called Journalism Online LLC, which is developing technology that helps publishers collect micro-payments from readers online.
He hopes that both acquisitions will lend support to his quest to help newspaper publishers be as profitable online as they once were in print.
The Skiff digital reader which Murdoch plans to bring to market later this year features an 11.5-inch grayscale touchscreen that allows users to download material wirelessly from Skiff’s online store.
The first material to feature on the Skiff digital reader will be the Financial Times, the New York Times, Forbes, Popular Mechanics, Random House and Simon & Schuster. The technology could also be licensed out to hardware from other manufacturers, appearing perhaps as an app on an Android phone or tablet computer.
Mobile publishing business to boom
The mobile publishing business is about to go stellar thanks to devices like the Apple iPad which have allowed publishers to redefine how news and magazine content is delivered online via apps. Magazines and newspapers that have delivered breakthrough iPad apps include Wired, Time magazine and the Financial Times, while news apps like the Pulse Reader, BBC News, Reuters News Pro and AP News are breaking new ground in online news distribution.
The online advertising side of the coin is also hard to ignore. Last week, Apple revealed that its iAd platform already has US$60m in ad bookings – 50pc of all North America’s mobile ads for H2 2010.
Quite rightly this has online publishers worried about whether they will be excluded from Apple’s devices – now almost 60pc of all mobile devices in the US – and led to the CEO of Google’s recently acquired AdMob expressing his concerns over recent changes to Apple’s terms for app developers.
Either way, for such a young market, the energy and competition about to be unleashed is mesmerising and with new devices entering the fray all the time like the Dell Streak or the Samsung Galaxy, a whole new paradigm in publishing is about to be unleashed with News Corp, Apple and Google currently leading the land grab.
Photo: The Skiff digital reader