Murdoch To Charge Readers For Online News

Rupert Murdoch, News Corp chairman and CEO, May 9, 2007. AP

By CNET Staff Writer Caroline McCarthy

In a move that makes him seem a bit like Dr. Evil wanting to be paid one hundred billion dollars for Austin Powers' ransom, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch has said that he will charge for all the online content associated with the newspapers and television stations he owns.

It's a goal that some in the digital-media space will bill as ludicrous--and some as inevitable.

The Financial Times reported the news Thursday, adding that Murdoch had spotted "some good signs of life" in the battered advertising sector.

He's already got most of The Wall Street Journal, which News Corp. acquired two years ago, behind a pay wall. But he also owns the rest of Dow Jones & Company, the Fox television and film empire, the New York Post, and the U.K.'s The Times. News Corp. is also a partner in Hulu, the joint video venture that offers a big chunk of Fox television content (as well as NBC and ABC) for free on the Web.

Robert Iger, the CEO of new Hulu partner Disney, said at a conference last month that he does not believe Web content needs to be offered for free, and that consumers will be willing to pay for it.

"We intend to charge for all our news Web sites," Murdoch said, according to the Financial Times. "If we're successful, we'll be followed by all media."

In late 2007, well before the market collapse last fall, Murdoch had said pretty much the exact opposite, claiming that a free and ad-supported model would be more beneficial than a subscription model for The Wall Street Journal.

Presumably the new paid-content strategy wouldn't apply to News Corp.'s digital-only assets, like social network MySpace.
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