Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In the Digital Age: Paying for Quality Independent News

The Wall Street Journal published Rupert Murdoch's December 1st remarks to the Federal Trade Commission's workshop on journalism and the Internet in today's paper. It's clear Murdoch is running headstrong through new frontier. He stated that there are two principles media companies need to come to grips with:

  • Provide the people with news they want.
  • Quality content is NOT free.

There have been some rumblings the past couple of weeks around the topic of paying for quality news content online. It was recently reported that News Corp has been in talks with Microsoft in making all their online news content available on exclusively on Microsoft's Bing search engine, for a price. This leaves Google and other search engines out in the cold. Perhaps a bold move by Microsoft to disrupt Google's dominance by taking away some prevalent and respected news content. News Corp owns a slew of media outlets, such as: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Times of London, the The Sun, etc.

In a move to appease the likely move by more media giants, and avoid legal wrangling, Google has just recently made it possible for companies to avoid turning up on their search engine by embedding some special tags in their web pages.

In my opinion, Murdoch delivered a compelling argument in his remarks before the Federal Trade Commission.
  • The experiment with online advertising is not bringing in the revenue that media companies have been looking for, and quite frankly need to sustain the independent and quality content being delivered.
  • People will only pay for content if they believe that they're receiving value. With this, media companies can support their business model to deliver this quality content to the people.
  • The need to protect and recognize the professional investments of time, effort, and resources of distinguished journalists to provide this quality.
Without what Murdoch is proposing, think of the alternative. Unable to manage a profitable business model, more and more print media are closing their offices. There are several reasons for this, but part of it has to do with trend towards digital media. Without reputable and independent media sources to provide quality content, it will be difficult to discern what digital news is worth noting and listening to in the massive sea of the web. Just search the blogosphere. You won't need to search too far to find a ton of misinformation being spewed on there today. Wikipedia has already had trouble keeping their entries clean, not to mention maintaining incentives for volunteer contributors to continue to contribute their content.

To stay ahead of the technology curve, News Corp and other media outlets are also pursuing an innovative mobile strategy to provide their print and televised content on any number of mobile devices. (I plan on following up on the potential impact of this for the Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, e-readers, Blackberrys, iPhones, etc., in another posting.) This strategy I believe will be the catalyst for these media moguls to find the balance between a sustainable and profitable business model, and delivering independent quality content to customers at a modest price.

To read the WSJ's article on Rupert Murdoch's remarks to the Federal Trade Commission on December 1st, click here.

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