Murdoch ready to charge for online UK newspapers


News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch is making good on his vow to start charging online readers of the Times of London and Sunday Times newspapers. Now comes the battle for eyeballs with the papers’ main competitor, whose editor has scoffed at the pay-wall plan and vowed to happily take the market share and keep The Guardian’s website free.

The Times and Sunday Times announced on Tuesday, as they unveiled redesigned websites, that they will become the first general circulation newspapers in the UK to charge for content, beginning in mid-June. The rate will be one pound (about $1.40) for a single day or two pounds for a one week subscription.

The newspaper sites will also block Google and other search engines from aggregating their content. Thus, non-subscribers will not even know what they are missing.

For months now Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger has ridiculed Murdoch for the pay-wall plan. Speaking in January, he said that the business minds at his organization had looked at various pay-wall options and concluded that none would produce as much revenue as the advertising from a free site. He also said there is a price to be paid for divorcing a newspaper site from the free interchange of the Internet. “It removes you from the way people the world over now connect with each other. You cannot control distribution or create scarcity without becoming isolated from this new networked world,” he warned.

RBR-TVBR observation: This will be an interesting experiment for Murdoch, although one that could well do considerable damage to some of his company’s most valuable brand names. We would not want to bet on it succeeding.