Thursday, 5 November 2009

A fighting retreat?

News Corporation’s interim results make for fairly boring reading, but there was apparently an interesting little exchange during the press conference Q&A in New York, a report of which can be read HERE. As you may well know, Rupert is planning to introduce a pay-wall on all his online news sites and had provisionally targeted June 2010 as D-Day.

When asked about his self-imposed deadline yesterday, he said, and I quote: "I wouldn't promise that we're going to meet that date." Acting unnaturally coy, he then declined to comment on the reasons for any delay except to say that he was talking to rival publishers, including the Telegraph group. "It's a work in progress and there's a huge amount of work going on," Murdoch said.

Two thoughts. Firstly, as I’ve said before on this blog, I’d be interested to know what the Office of Fair Trading think about an attempt by British newspapers to act in concert to fix prices.

Secondly, it is hard not to speculate that this might be the start of a climbdown. Rupert is known to be a luddite at heart, once famously commenting after News Corporation’s acquisition of My Space that “we’re in the stalking business now.” Could it be that he made company policy “on the hoof” and his minnions have now told him that this isn’t going to fly?

The logistics of payment for content are fearsome. The Guardian, in my opinion the best of the online sites and ‘owner’ of more ‘must read’ columnists than any other newspaper (Simon Jenkins, Polly Toynbee, Will Hutton etal), has already declared it will remain free. So that’s at least one hole in his apparent attempts to corral the industry to his way of thinking.


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