Crashing into the paywall – will Murdoch manage it on time?

Is something rotten in the state of News Corp? With the whole pay wall revolution seemingly only minutes away, Rupert Murdoch is still “looking at alternatives” for a spring launch, with theoretical partners,Steve Brill’s Journalism Online still small and local it seems.  The Times Online recently appointed Gurtej Sandhu to oversee the venture set to explode on our screens this spring, yet in a conference call to reporters talking about News Corporation’s results Murdoch had this to say.

“We’re looking at various alternatives – and I don’t think we’re ready to announce yet. We’re in the midst of a lot of talks with a lot of people that are coming to a head – and you’ll hear a lot more from us in the next two months. We’ll be charging for online wherever we have publications.”

Spring?  When you are still in talks with a bunch of potential suppliers and still weighing up options? No doubt it will happen, but don’t you think News Corp is flapping around struggling to find something that works for them and to catch up with the Dirty Digger’s own high minded rhetoric on the subject. I believe he also said places like Australia would be a few months behind other countries, why’s that then? Should all believers in free online news start subscribing to Aussie papers for now?

Meanwhile , back on the farm, The New York Times reported last year that Steve Brill’s Journalism Online venture had signed up its first 500 and then a 1,000 partners for its venture that would create a system (now called Press+) allowing newspapers and magazines to charge for content while it took 20%. The partners were all unnamed. Wow!  But who are they? It appears that now we know the ‘big hitters’ (or at least some of them) they include The Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era,  based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, it has a circulation of 44,000 and a name as long as a Welsh train station. Other top flight catches include The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina. It has a circulation of 61,875 and then the third partner is revealed to be a news site in Boston called the GlobalPost.

The New York Times piece goes on to say that Journalism Online claims now to have 1,300 news sites around the world signed up – but will not name them – why’s is that then, when the paid for content is less than a few weeks away?   Could it be that Steve Brill and Co appear to be struggling to find big hitting partners?

‘Methuselah’ Murdoch is doing his own thing as is the New York Times (in 2011 – a paid content odyssey) but there are plenty of other ‘Big Hitters,’ such as The Guardian, who want nothing to do with it as yet. No doubt these guys in News Corp will make paid for content mechanisms work but is this streamlined sleek newspaper machine really not racing to catch up with the Dirty Digger’s vision?

If you wanted another clue here it is. Guess where The Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era is trialling its foray into paid content and its Journalism Online effort. It’s news right? No. It’s sports coverage maybe? No. It’s business news? No. It is starting with obituaries. Maybe Rupert (at his ripe old age) is to be the gobal leader in paid content in more ways than one? What a nice marketing angle.

Ernest J. Schreiber, editor of the Lancaster paper’s site, told the NY Times: “We’re starting small, so if this really turns people off, we’re not playing with a huge chunk of our readership. “We have news that no one else has, like these obituaries. We would eventually take other sections of our online content into the system. I’m thinking local sports, perhaps.”

Now that really is vision.


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