News Corp. chairman and chief executive officer Rupert Murdoch said he intends to expand the model of having customers pay for news content online to the company’s entire stable of publications. Speaking at a two-day Federal Trade Commission workshop in Washington on the future of journalism in the Internet age, Murdoch said, “Quality content is not free.
“In the future, good journalism will depend on the ability of news organizations to attract customers by providing news and information [and they will] be willing to pay for it,” he said. “The old business model based on advertising only is dead.”
This story first appeared in the December 2, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Murdoch pointed to The Times of London and The Australian as two titles he plans to start charging customers to read online. He said The Wall Street Journal’s Web site has been a successful pay model and now has more than one million subscribers, while barrons.com has 150,000.
“Let’s face it: A business model that relies primarily on online advertising cannot sustain newspapers over the long term,” Murdoch said. “Critics say people won’t pay. I believe they will. Our customers are smart enough to know you don’t get something for nothing.”
Murdoch also said News Corp. has been working on a two-year project to use a portion of its broadcast spectrum “to bring our television offerings and maybe even our newspaper content to mobile devices.” He said the company is considering e-readers as a possible platform, though it has no intention of getting into the hardware business.
In another move to keep up with the rapidly evolving news landscape, News Corp. soon will launch The Wall Street Journal “professional edition,” which Murdoch said will “bring together the Wall Street Journal online and Dow Jones Factiva by giving our reader instantaneous access to breaking news.”
“In short, we believe fiercely that the key to competing during these difficult times is to invest more in journalistic content, not less,” Murdoch said.
John Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, said another workshop will be held in the spring to examine possible government policy proposals to help support news media, ranging from antitrust exemptions to changes to copyright laws to cross-ownership restrictions and government subsidies similar to those provided for public radio and broadcast stations.
Media organizations will have to think about what they do and ascribe a value to the content they produce, said Robert Thomson, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and editor in chief of Dow Jones & Co. But, he cautioned, “the cost to society of not being able to afford specialist journalism is going to be profound. It’s great to have a cacophony of voices, there’s no doubt the crowd has found its voice, but what will it be discussing? — Kristi Ellis and Liza Casabona
A LOCAL HUFFPO: Vowing to show more of Los Angeles than just Hollywood and show business, Arianna Huffington is launching The Huffington Post Los Angeles today. “There are a lot of conversations going on in Los Angeles, such as the homeless situation among the middle class, and you will read more about that here,” said Huffington, who previously launched local sites for Chicago, New York and Denver. The Los Angeles site will be led by senior editor Willow Bay, who joined The Huffington Post more than two years ago, and Billy Silverman, who previously worked for Brian Grazer at Imagine Entertainment.
Bay said quite a few Huffington Post contributors, such as Larry David, Sheryl Crow and Sen. Barbara Boxer, live in Los Angeles and also will contribute to the new site, but new faces will begin appearing as well, including musician Ben Lee, Ellie Kemper of NBC’s “The Office” and artist Nancy Marks. People.com, C Magazine and latimes.com are among the editorial partners that will provide content. As with the overall Huffington Post, the Los Angeles edition will post breaking news and cover subjects including politics, local news, entertainment, sports, food, arts, culture and style, business and media. “We want to shine a spotlight on local reporting,” Bay noted.
Huffington told WWD the site will not launch with a sponsor, but advertisers will be added sometime next year. She noted the Web site’s board soon will discuss whether to create more local sites. — Amy Wicks
DEAL DONE: BusinessWeek is now in the hands of Bloomberg. The companies on Monday said Bloomberg closed its deal to acquire the magazine from The McGraw-Hill Co. From the sale, McGraw-Hill expects to report a $9.3 million pretax gain, or $5.9 million after tax. Staffers not continuing on with the magazine were bid adieu at an office party Monday night, but by Tuesday morning, changes were already afoot at the weekly. The logo will be changed to Bloomberg BusinessWeek with this week’s issue, with the logo still being tweaked as of press time Tuesday, and insiders report the BusinessWeek sign hanging in the lobby entrance to the office was already removed. Staffers, however, aren’t fleeing their Sixth Avenue offices so quickly — the New York staffers aren’t due to move into Bloomberg’s Lexington Avenue offices until spring. — Stephanie D. Smith
TIME RUNNING OUT: The New York Times is searching for 100 volunteers to take buyout packages in its editorial ranks, but so far, few have stepped forward. Aside from four long-term reporters in the Washington bureau, as Politico.com reported this week, hardly any others have volunteered, according to insiders. That’s because those who wanted to leave the paper likely accepted a buyout in April, said insiders, when staffers such as longtime Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse and investigative reporter David Johnston left when the Times eliminated another 100 positions. The deadline for volunteers is Monday, and before Christmas, the Times will implement involuntary cuts to meet its goal. Insiders say there are few clues as to which departments will feel the deepest cuts, but some speculated higher-level editors could be targeted moreso than reporters. — S.D.S.