Murdoch: No more free lunch, and no Kindle love

Fred Prouser/Reuters
News Corporation's Rupert Murdoch: "The current days of the Internet will soon be over."

Rupert Murdoch doesn't like this whole "giving stuff away" business.

The chairman and CEO of mega media conglomerate News Corporation told reporters and investors on an earnings call Thursday that the days of websites giving away content are numbered.

Citing the success of his company's Wall Street Journal, Mr. Murdoch said that he saw no reason why its model couldn't be applied to more sites.

"That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Journal’s experience. We are now in the midst of an epochal debate over the value of content and it is clear to many newspapers that the current model is malfunctioning," he said.

The Atlantic's Conor Clarke isn't so sure Murdoch's claims hold water.

There is one big difference between the Journal and just about every other newspaper in the country: Businesses are willing to pay for the Journal. You can invest on the basis of the information in the Journal. Which means you can buy a subscription and charge it to your corporate account. But for some reason I doubt that corporate America will be willing to pick up the tab for the New York Post or one of News Corps other fine journalistic offerings.

The Journal's paywall-protected website (which, incidentally, released its own free iPhone app in April) is one of the few newspaper sites to find success with a subscription model. The New York Times shuttered its Times Select premium service in 2007, two years after its debut.

Murdoch said he expected other News Corp. sites – which include, among others, the New York Post and Britain's Sun and Times – to begin charging for access in the next year.

Kindle? No thanks.

The other bombshell from the call came when Murdoch announced that his company's content wouldn't be finding its way to the Amazon Kindle, tech's "it girl" of the moment.

No way, no how, said Murdoch:

I can assure you that we will not be ceding our content rights to the fine people who created the Kindle. We will control the prices for our content and we will control the relationship with our customers – any device maker or website which doesn’t meet these basic criteria on content will not be doing business long-term with News Corporation.

Translation: Amazon is asking too much for the privilege of selling subscriptions on the Kindle.

As Staci Kramer reports for Paid Content, Dallas Morning News CEO James Moroney told a US Senate subcommittee hearing on the future of newspapers that Amazon wanted 70 percent of Kindle subscription revenue from his paper – and the right to license the content elsewhere – in return for being available on the device.

As Peter Kafka points out for the Journal's Media Memo, that ratio – 70 percent to the publisher, 30 percent to the content provider – is the inverse of what Apple offers artists who sell their music on its iTunes music store.

A Kindle challenger?

At a cable industry conference last month Murdoch expressed interest in investing in an e-book reader to compete with the Kindle. He reiterated those plans on Thursday's call.

What do you think? Are you willing to start paying for more content online? Do you want to subscribe to newspapers on what up until now has been called an e-book reader? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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