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The End of Free Content? Murdoch is Wrong.

When he bought the Wall Street Journal two years ago, Rupert Murdoch at first made noises about freeing the newspaper's content from behind the paywall, where it has dwelt since 1996. But, more recently, Murdoch came to the conclusion that it was a better strategy to continue charging for online subscriptions than harvest the increased ad revenue that would come with the larger traffic that would accrue to a free site.

Over the two years, the Journal has experimented with how much content to present free and how much to confine behind the wall -- a practice that is likely to continue. But Murdoch has been generating headlines with a bold pronouncement that "the current days of the internet will soon be over," because publications would all start charging for their content online.

I doubt it, Mr. Media Baron. The problem with bold pronouncements in this space is they almost never prove to be true. Even if the occasional walled garden of content, like that at wsj.com, prove successful, most media companies do not provide enough differentiation in their content to warrant being able to charge for it.

The New York Times is a good example. Its management continues to hint loudly that it is exploring various paid models. "We continue to take a fresh, hard and deep look at various subscription, purchase and micro-payment models," said chairman Arthur Sulzberger.

Oh no! Not micro-payments again. Somebody needs to tell Arthur that that dog won't hunt.
Nope, content still wants to be free. Rupert gets a lot of things right but this time he's issued a prediction that he'll later need to withdraw.

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