10 differing opinions on whether Rupert Murdoch can charge for internet news content

I’m aware that everyone’s probably sick to the back teeth of the debate sparked by Rupert Murdoch’s recent announcement that he was going to put all of News Corporation’s Internet news sites behind a pay wall, but I thought for the sake of posterity I’d collect some of the more interesting opinions somewhere we can refer back to in a couple of years’ time just to see who was right:

1. Mark Cuban – Advice for Rupert Murdoch

Mark Cuban now owns an NFL team, but he made his name in Internet content, so he knows what he’s talking about. Amongst other things, he thinks Murdoch can make money and should start by blocking aggregators which send the papers near worthless traffic.

2. Jeff Harkin – Murdoch may have thrown the newspapers a lifeline

Dislikes ‘freelords’ as he calls them, claims newspapers must ‘hold their niche’, whatever that means.

3. Jeff Jarvis – Mass Delusion

Jeff Jarvis is presumably one of the ‘freelords’ that Harkin dislikes so much. In fact, he’s probably king of the ‘freelords’, so you can probably guess what he has to say.

4. Malcolm Coles – Murdoch can charge for content, but can anyone else?

Detailed and interesting argument. There’s lots I disagree with, including the central premise, however, Malcolm Coles does demonstrate how you can charge for content. However, to my mind he doesn’t adequately demonstrate how you can charge for news content, apart from an improbable Sky tie-in and some fanciful smart card system.

5. Matt Kelly – We can’t charge for content just yet

Mirror Associate Editor Matt Kelly, believes that they need to build value before they can charge, and probably need to monetise content offerings in different ways. (Something they’re doing with the new and rather excellent Mirror Football).

6. Simon Jenkins – Goodbye Guardian. Hello the Guardian Experience

You can’t make money out of charging for Internet content, but you can out of brand extension.

7. Adam Westbrook –  The Do Economy

He doesn’t support paywalls. Nor does he think it will work, however, he’s happy someone is addressing the issue.

8. Michael Hedges – Rupert’s Risky Ruse

Give a business perspective. Doesn’t like the idea one bit. Points to the music industry and it’s attempts to charge online.

9. Fred Wilson – Freemium and Freeconomics

Fred Wilson, everyone’s favourite VC, is a supporter of the freemium model, i.e. basic service is free, power users pay for extra features, the removal of ads, etc. It has been suggested that this is a model Rupert may adopt.

10. Seth Godin –  Malcolm is Wrong

Seth Godin wades into the ongoing Anderson v Gladwell debate about the more general ‘economics of free’. He’s on the side of Anderson and free.

and, an extra bonus ball

11. The Neiman Journalism Lab – Rupert Murdoch has changed his position on charging for content

For the record, I believe you can charge for content, but like Matt Kelly at the Mirror, I think you need to create real value, and that’s hard. I think Simon Jenkins makes some interesting points about diverisification of revenue streams (dating is a significant earner for the Guardian), and like Fred Wilson, I’m a fan of Freemium, a model which makes sense in this market.

Ultimately, however, I can’t see how Rupert Murdoch can make money charging for his news content where so many others have failed. Like Robert Andrews at Paid Content, I think that for some in the industry, what looks like an escape hatch, may well be a “trap door to oblivion”.

Now let us never talk of this again (apart from in the comments).

3 comments about “10 differing opinions on whether Rupert Murdoch can charge for internet news content

  1. Beverley says:

    A worthwhile addition to this list is Charlie Brooker’s iPhone-hating, Murdoch-loathing, spitting rant on Comment is Free: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/aug/10/charlie-brooker-iphone God, he makes me laugh. And I’m an iPhone user.

  2. […] the biggest debates in journalism at the moment and seems to dominate social and traditional media. Opinions vary greatly as to whether online users should have to pay for online news or […]

  3. […] 4. The empire strikes back Rupert Murdoch’s announcement earlier in the year that he was going to put paywalls on his newspaper sites was a big news story in itself (and one that no doubt lost him money on his own sites). The jury’s still out on whether he’ll be able to make money with this strategy. […]

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