Monday, June 14, 2010

Media Decoder: For News Corporation, Significant Online Investments

Reflecting Rupert Murdoch’s belief that consumers should pay for more content online, the News Corporation said Monday that it had acquired an e-reading platform called Skiff and had made an investment in a company that manages pay models for newspapers and magazines.

The company also named one of its strategic advisors, Jon Housman, to the new post of president of digital journalism initiatives. Monday’s moves amount to building blocks for the News Corporation as it prepares to charge for access to more of its newspapers and other Web sites.

Skiff is a company that the Hearst Corporation founded last year to develop an online store for publications. The News Corporation’s news release about the acquisition indicates that is especially interested in Skiff’s ability to deliver “visually appealing layouts for newspaper and magazine content.” The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Separately, News Corporation said it had made an investment in Journalism Online, a company co-founded by Steven Brill, L. Gordon Crovitz and Leo Hindery Jr. that wants to make it easy for publications to charge for content. The terms of this investment were not disclosed, either.

Jon Miller, the chief digital officer of News Corporation, said in a news release that “both Skiff and Journalism Online serve as key building blocks in our strategy to transform the publishing industry and ensure consumers will have continued access to the highest quality journalism.”

Mr. Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, told investors last winter that “the value of content is now clear.”

“Instead of the existential debate about value, now we’re merely haggling other evaluations,” he said in February. “Consumers want content to be delivered immediately and on array of devices to suit their needs and they’re willing to be paid, entertained, and they’re willing to pay to be entertained and informed.”

Mr. Murdoch also indicated at that time that News Corporation was in advanced talks with device makers about “developing a subscription model that will develop high quality journalism to consumers wherever and whenever they wanted.”

He continued, “We have to begun to charge for online content as a couple of our U.S. titles and we expect to expand to other titles in the coming months.” The Wall Street Journal already charges for access to its Web site, but newspapers like The New York Post do not charge. Both papers are owned by the News Corporation...Media Decoder

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