Rupert Murdoch inherited a few newspapers in Australia decades ago that were in the red. He built them into the global media platform that News Corp. is today. Sadly, yet realistically, he will run it into the ground if he doesn't let younger minds take over.
Murdoch is the stuff of legends in the newspaper and traditional media arena. He has even been parodied as the villain in a James Bond movie -- well, they were definitely influenced by his media reach when writing the character.
But Murdoch needs to step aside for younger minds to guide his giant into the next stage of the electronic age.
Murdoch announced this week that he wants all of News Corp.'s online news content to embrace the paid model. The portfolio of current and potential content News Corp. owns is as big as any, both online and off. It includes flagships like Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and The Times of London, along with a collection of regional newspapers in the U.K. and Australia.
Unfortunately, his thoughts reflect too much of the traditional media mindset that allowed him to amass that fortune. It's time to think outside of that box. The Web isn't going to embrace the paid content model unless it's truly unique or exclusively viral.
News Corp. seems to want to fly in the face of one simple maxim: why would anyone pay for something they can get for free?
As a pre-Web journalist, I'm always aware of the difference between a Twitter pic or a short factual announcement and the work of a trained reporter. The unfortunate part is that I've seen blogs and other independent news Web sites grow and now challenge the status quo.
These sites exist through banner ads and other forms of advertising. They aren't charging for their content, and they pay their writers.
Murdoch risks losing all that he's built if he goes through this door. He shouldn't use the Wall Street Journal as his measuring stick -- it has such specific information and he jumped on subscriptions early, grabbing the maximum of the faithful before they realized they could get the same info in many places for free.
And yes, right now many sites are republishing stories from News Corp.'s various outlets. Just stop this urge to start a user pay system. Advertising is the smart play -- consolidating old school broadcast and print advertisers and telling them it's time to adapt to the new generations.
Fox and friends should learn about SEO and monetize their archived information. Look at how Hulu is building its in-video advertising, or blip.fm gets a commission on music sales. There are endless ways to monetize your products, but charging users isn't the way of the future.
A better option might be selling an iPhone App for $5 and giving unlimited access to the content of each individual area -- so the niched followers can pick and choose. You'll garner a much sought-after list of potential customers that could make more than the ever-decreasing number of paid subscribers.
The world needs the seasoned and trained journalist, but newspapers and TV provide versions of the same stories. People aren't as eager to specifically hear that Katie Couric, or a certain New York Times reporter was covering the story.
The Internet has changed the equation. The medium is no longer the message -- the information holds the message and online travelers just don't want to pay for it.
The new medium is the Web. It's only message: the old methods don't apply.
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