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Murdoch plans to charge for access to online News Corp titles

Rupert Murdoch has said he plans to charge readers for access to online versions of his newspaper empire, the Guardian reports today.

The Guardian has quoted him as saying “That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal‘s experience”

Whether this is a case of sabre-rattling or real strategy from an ageing emperor remains to be seen, but it’s hard to see why readers of papaers such as The Times or News of the World would be willing to pay for content online when so much similar material is available for free.

It would be interesting to know whether he’s doing this to generate sustainable revenue from the sites, or to drive readers offline to the print versions of his publications.

Ultimately though, it’s a question of content. Sites like the Economist and the Wall Street Journal can charge for online content becuase they offer high quality content and exclusive analysis of a high end industry.

They’re also probably mostly paid for by companies, rather than indivduals. Let’s not forget that the New York Times could’t hack it as a subscription-only site.

Payment models have improved, and the iTunes store, paypal and mobile tech has made it much easier to extract micro-payments from customers.

But in order for broader appeal titles to hold the same appeal for consumers, they’ll have to offer some pretty impressive, unputdownable content.

For The Times, think Clarkson and AA Gill. Are they enough? I doubt it.

And if Murdoch is doing it as a way to boost offline sales, he’s surely sawing off the branch that he is sitting on.

Murdoch said a plan will be thrashed out within 12 months, adding “the current days of the internet will soon be over”

Which makes him sound less like Ceasar and more and more like King Canute. Watch this space…

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