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Friday, 29 May 2009

Free online newspapers a thing of the past? Within 12 months News Ltd will charge readers for online content, says Rupert Murdoch. Readers would be charged a subscription "within the next 12 months", according to the AFP story today.

On 6 April it was reported that Australian-born editor of The Wall Street Journal, Robert Thomson, said:

"Google encourages promiscuity -- and shamelessly so -- and therefore a significant proportion of their users don't necessarily associate that content with the creator.

"It's certainly true that readers have been socialised -- wrongly I believe -- that much content should be free."

Murdoch has also contradicted group editorial director of The Australian, Campbell Reid, who said a couple of days ago that "newspapers" would be around in 50 years. But according to Murdoch:

"Instead of an analog paper printed on paper you may get it on a panel which would be mobile, which will receive the whole newspaper over the air, (and) be updated every hour or two," he said.

"I think it's two or three years away before they get introduced in a big way and then it will probably take 10 years or 15 years for the public to swing over."

So we're now facing an end to the happy days of promiscuous browsing of online newspapers. Bloggers beware! No longer will you be able to collect snippets of information to feed your appetite for news, and your habit of self-expression. Unless you pay for this pleasant privilege, that is.

Of course, given the downward trend in media profits due to lower rates of advertising, it might be the case that there will be more amalgamations. If so, we might see individual newspapers doing more in a smaller space. We might also see more types of feed beyond what is currently scheduled within the space. And in the case of companies like News Ltd which controls a broad stable of vehicles, we might see a more concentrated aggregation of feeds from more sources in the one place.

All these things might mitigate the dulling effects of paid content. But I, for one, will miss the freedom of being able to visit a large number of news sites during the day, picking out my favourite sections for viewing, and choosing at will the headlines I click on.

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