The Internet Content Inflection Point?

Perhaps when the history of the long-term relationship between newspapers and the Internet is written, we will point to August, 2007–when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. completed its purchase of The Wall Street Journal.
A many will recall, Murdoch initially announced that he would open up the Journal’s Web site to non-subscribers. I am a subscriber to the print edition of the Journal, and I was very curious about when the gates would be lifted. Frankly, I planned to dump the “dead tree” edition if I could get it online.
Then…..nothing happened. They still require a sign-in to access Journal articles.
One has to presume that once Murdoch looked under the hood he saw that the Journal was making a lot of money with the plan the Journal had employed. And now he has announced he is going to start putting all of his newspapers behind a gate of some kind. While he hasn’t yet announced specifics of his plan (and maybe he’ll experiment with a variety of them over time) he is boldly going to a place many Internet theoreticians think impossible. He is going to try to get people to pay for his content.
The fact is that many, many people will steal content no matter how the makers of that content try to protect it. And maybe the “news” and features in newspapers is so fungible that no one will pay for much or even any of it.
But the iTunes Music Store proves that at least some people will pay when offered the option.
The most promising idea for newspapers is having all major newspapers quickly move to a paid model at the same time. This ‘show of force’ would make it abubdantly clear to online news consumers that they are getting most of their news from newspaper services (or at least most of their “quality news”.)
There is no lack of people who say the newspaper is doomed. And maybe the business of printing and distributing a paper version indeed has no future. But somewhere, somehow, people will have to pay for news to be collected and disseminated. It’s too important and too desired. Maybe the steps Murdoch will be testing soon will show us a path to the future of news.

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