Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Secondguessing Murdoch

I follow any information on Mr Murdoch’s attempts to introduce charging for news with great interest. Mostly as a passive observer but occasionally I put forward my thoughts as a comment to an article. There is a lot of speculation on what his strategy will be but hints are getting stronger. Yesterday Guardian (UK) published a piece quoting Mr Murdoch's son James, chief executive of News Corp Europe and Asia, saying that “…the industry will see a shift from merely selling journalism direct to end-consumers - or readers - to a market in which news organisations 'wholesale' their news to other organisations who can use it for their own ends.”

It is a very interesting comment from my perspective since it supports my own conclusions as to Mr Murdoch probable strategy. I commented on this in response to an article published in The Australian on 19 October in which the author reported that News Limited is working on top secret projects and suggested the company is planning to build new websites and associated services based on social network principles. My comment was never published ("censorship" of a kind?) but here it is what I submitted:

Interesting “insider” perspective however, I fail to see how these “new product concepts” you refer to will differ from myriad of online websites that make money from other sources than advertising. Nothing was stopping The News to develop these special purpose or niche products for the last decade or so. Big opportunities are gone and are milked by competition (eg. real estate and other online classifieds). Value adding basic (and free) news does not give The News distinctive advantage – anyone can do it.

With due respect, I don’t think what you describe reflects Mr Murdoch’s true intentions as it would be really “more of the same” strategy for The News. It is unlikely that he had “new and exciting sites” in mind when he had spoken these words: "…The aggregators and plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content.” Taken literary, it implies wholesale cross media news/content “feed” subscription model rather than merely “sites … built in the style of social networks”.

The latest round of news is that Mr Murdoch and Microsoft are discussing potential deal which would see the technology group pay for exclusive rights to content from News Limited stable of newspapers to attract visitors to its Bing search engine. The deal would exclude Google and other search engines from indexing any content from Mr Murdoch’s sites. Neither Microsoft nor News Corp are commenting on their talks.