Rupert Murdoch has done it. As suggested at News International’s last quarterly earnings call, he says his online newspaper portfolio will begin migrating towards a paid-for model within the next financial year.
The response has been electric, with no media title able to ignore the story. As previously acknowledged here, at No Free Lunch, Murdoch is one of the few media moguls large enough to foment industry-wide change towards charging for online newspaper content, though in this instance, he is clearly being ably supported by the Financial Times’ Lionel Barber.
But could this work?
Murdoch is in a unique position in the media – where he goes, he stands a very real chance that others will follow. What this means is, while the skeptics are right that charging people for content will drive his audience to rival online sources, they are also missing a key dynamic: if the others start charging too, there will be nowhere to go.
The problem for online newspapers since they began giving away their content free has been the fragmented system online – news just leaks. But if all – or even just a proportion – of the online newspaper community moves as one, this could work to everyone’s advantage. As Andrew Keen says:
The holy grail of the digital economy is discovering how to get consumers to spend money on content. Nobody has figured this out yet.
So from now on, watch this space for other newspaper groups to announce ‘trials’, and in the longer term, a raft of lawsuits issued in response to plagiarism.