In a strange-bedfellows way, it's rather delicious to contemplate the possibility that News Corp. might become the savior of the newspaper business; the report in The Los Angeles Times today that chief digital officer Jon Miller has met with newspapers, including The New York Times, about forming a consortium to charge for online content, makes such a thing possible. The company has also reportedly met with The Washington Post Company, the LA Times' publisher, Tribune Co., and Hearst, feeling it is best positioned to make such a plan work.
If not collusion, which would, of course, be illegal, such a consortium would be the next best thing, because it would mean that if all of these newspapers would be involved, they could potentially all erect a pay wall together, sort of like the Berlin Wall suddenly being constructed. But I mean that in a positive fashion. It's long seemed to me that the only way that a pay wall would work is if it happened en masse, or something close. Not that anti-trust issues aren't of concern, but since the list of companies that have supposedly talked to News Corp. doesn't include everyone, it certainly would be less of one.
Of course, this whole gambit is highly speculative, but there are many fascinating angles here. Another is whether the liberal New York Times would actually do business with the company that publishes the ultra-conservative -- not to mention down-market -- New York Post, and also -- horrors! -- owns Fox News. Would the Times Co. be able to put aside politics to create a new revenue stream? Only "Pinch" Sulzberger knows for sure.
Previous coverage of the newspaper industry's attempts at a subscription-based online model on BNET Media: