Murdoch: the days of free news are over

8 May 2009

News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch has said the days of free news are over, and his newspaper websites are expected to start charging for access within a year.

He described the move as a way of correcting a “malfunctioning business model”, and is understood to be encouraged by booming online subscription revenues at the Wall Street Journal.

Murdoch (pictured) has plunged himself headlong into a debate over whether newspapers the world over made a strategic mistake by allowing content to be accessed for free, at a time when the average person under 30 accesses most their news online and has not developed a habit of buying daily papers.

News Corporation’s quarterly profits slumped 47pc to US$755m.

The media empire’s newspaper division barely broke even, while advertising in the core UK market fell by 21pc, and Murdoch said The Sunday Times is struggling.

News Corporation cut 3,000 jobs over the past year, although few of the cuts affected journalists or creative personnel.

Murdoch’s MySpace division is still underperforming, and he recently replaced its management team in order to gain a sustainable profit from the venture.

He said MySpace is not going to go for the Facebook model of “getting hundreds of millions of people who don’t bring any advertising with them at all.”

But he does see merit in charging for newspaper content. “That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal’s experience, Murdoch said in a report in The Guardian yesterday.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: the head of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years