Rupert Murdoch's Latest Foray Into Online News Business Models… Not So Ridiculous
from the hold-on-here... dept
We’ve chronicled Rupert Murdoch’s flip-flopping on charging for news online (he originally claimed that free news made sense, and he wanted to free up the WSJ, but now says all of his news sites should have paywalls). And a bunch of folks have sent in Michael Wolff’s Vanity Fair profile of Murdoch as a clueless luddite on the internet, and someone who doesn’t seem to care about the important nuances of why or how charging for news might not make much sense. Wolff paints Murdoch as the type of guy who just thinks he can bully the entire market into agreeing that people should pay for news online. In that article, Wolff discusses the tension between the Times of London and The Sunday Times, which are separate operations owned by Murdoch, but share a web site. However, apparently that’s changing, and Wolff presents it as an opportunity to start charging for The Sunday Times online, since it won’t be “losing” anyone via putting up a paywall (the question remains if it would gain anyone).
And yet… the recent revelation of a new business model experiment by the two papers suggests an approach that is a bit more nuanced — even if the (competing) Guardian’s explanation of it isn’t particularly enlightening. The plan appears to be not to charge for news but to charge for some kind of membership club which provides additional benefits, along with the paper. So, becoming a member gives you the ability to add certain “packs” of information to your paper. I’m not sure how compelling that is. However, it’s also going to involve access to events and discounts on other goods and services (including Murdoch-owned satellite TV service, Sky+).
While it may depend on what’s really included in this offer, initially it makes quite a bit of sense. It’s not based on locking up the web content or limiting how it can be used, but in providing additional scarce value that people will buy. Who knows if this is an indicator of what Murdoch is planning — but it’s significantly different than a paywall, and a lot more reasonable, economically speaking.