News Corp to charge for online news

Rupert Murdoch announced his News Corp.-owned publications — which in North America include the Wall Street Journal and The New York Post — will charge for online news, within one year.

“Publishers including The New York Times are searching for ways to charge for news online, convinced that they must not give news through search engines such as Google and Yahoo,” noted the Reuters story about Murdoch’s plan. “Many new media experts say it would gut the ad revenue they get now and drive people away.”

Murdoch was quoted in an Associated Press story on the Globe and Mail web site  (free online at the time of this post):  “Asked how News Corp. will keep readers from simply jumping to free sources of news, he said, “I believe that if we are successful, we will be followed by other media.”

My reaction: a year is not soon enough. Give stuff away for free, and nobody values it, or protects it.

The blogosphere is, predictably, already screaming.

“Good luck with that,” snorted a blog about beer and politics, which lifted without attribution or link a couple of paragraphs of somebody else’s news story on the topic. “Just because you charge for access doesn’t mean you own the news,” it added self-righteously.

Another blogger squealed that Murdoch’s plan is “wacky,” and said the ideas is “stupid, and will never work. People are not going to pay to read news online and they will just switch to other sources … Why would someone pay Murdoch and Co. for a bit of political gossip, tittle-tattle and commentary when they can read the blog of some guy with a Blogger account, who blogs from his bedroom in his pyjamas and calls the bedroom the news centre?”

But, dear bloggers in your wee straw houses, that’s the nub: quality journalism is not “political gossip, tittle-tattle and commentary.” Just because some bloggers don’t, or don’t want to, see the difference doesn’t mean it’s not crucial.

Murdoch is the wolf at the door of a blogosphere that relies on a free supply of professional reporting to fill its troughs. In the fable, of course, the wolf didn’t fare so well, and it will be fascinating to see how Murdoch’s attack plays out. His weak spot, imo, is the debatable integrity of the journalism practiced through much of News Corp. (See here for several examples of that raging debate.)

To push this silly metaphor further: will Murdoch’s ploy force the creation of solid houses on the Internet, built of bricks made of real journalism? OK, maybe that’s too much of a fairy tale.