From Celeb Pics To The WSJ, News Corp Will Charge For Everything Online

Rupe thinks you’ll pay for pictures of celebrities.

As he is want to do, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch shook people up during his company’s earnings call yesterday, announcing that during this fiscal year, News Corp (NWS) would begin charging for access to all of its online news and entertainment content.

Seeking Alpha transcribed the call, and we’ve edited it down to just the parts where Rupe talks and answers questions about charging for content online.


Classified revenues will never again reach the levels that print once offered.

Quality journalism is not cheap and an industry that gives away its content is cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting. The increase we have seen in our Wall Street Journal subscriptions since we acquired the paper proves to me that the market is willing to pay for that quality without any special market.

 In the U.S. the Journal is the only newspaper that has expanded both as print and online subscriptions during this recession.


On the newspaper side you talked about the fact that classified revenue is sort of going away and is not going to come back. It sounds like you think you can largely replace that with digital fees, either on the advertising side or subscription fees. Can you walk us through how?

And do you think that can occur if competitors don’t follow that model?


We’re hopeful we can build significant revenues from the sale of digital delivery of newspapers, news content.


How much of a risk do you think it is to be the first to do this? What can you do to stop readers migrating to sites that remain free?


Just make our content better and differentiate it. If we’re successful, we will be followed by all the media.


Any indication on timing?


We’re thinking in terms of this fiscal year.


In the past there have exceptions that news sites of quality newspapers would be charged for. [But you’d be charging for celebrity and commodity news].


Well, I think they are very high quality and they’re entertaining.


But the type of celebrity journalism they focus on, particularly the pictures, are available across the Web, paid for or not.


Not if they’re ours. We will be asserting our copyright at every point. If it’s about celebrity, I think you will find that we normally have a celebrity scoop, the number of hits we get now are astronomical. We get huge piece. So you can snare it up from the Telegraph, but I’m sure [for a] great scoop people would be very happy to have been paying for that on a Web site.


When you said you want to charge for all the news sites, did you mean news sites including things like Fox News?


I would include Fox News. It has a huge, loyal, and profitable audience.

Here’s a few quick thoughts on Rupert’s plan:

Rupe underestimates the specialty of the WSJ’s market. The Journal is not only an important source of actionable information for American business people, it’s also important for their image. Every business person in the US wants to be seen carrying the Wall Street Journal into their office every morning. Every business person in the US wants to be able to talk to their boss about what was in the Journal that morning. That’s what people pay for — not the quality photographs.

Rupe overestimates the value of celebrity scoops. TMZ broke the story of Michael Jackson’s death. We know this because we watch the Web publishing space obsessively. Most people don’t. TMZ got a lot of traffic breaking the story — 33% over its previous record. But Yahoo, which was even a little late to the story, crushed it too, setting all-time record in unique visitors with 16.4 million people. Yahoo’s front page story “Michael Jackson rushed to hospital” saw 800,000 clicks in 10 minutes.

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