Rupert Murdoch – the Australian who prints Our Nation’s Newspaper of Record – is sticking to his guns: advertising alone won’t support journalism, so if you want news from his properties, you’ll have to pay. (Eventually.)
Murdoch has a problem with news aggregators like Google, which monetize other people’s content. Critics say Murdoch’s time has passed, and that putting up paywalls would hurt readership. While this is true, readership really isn’t the problem for news media, it’s revenue.
Like any foray into the online world, eyes on the page mean little unless those eyes do something. Campaigns and causes find that out all the time. It’s relatively easy to drive traffic to a site or amass 10,000 Facebook fans, but unless those site visitors and fans sign up, give money, and/or take action, they’re nothing more than numbers on a spreadsheet.
Similarly, if Murdoch’s papers don’t have users that somehow create revenue, it really doesn’t matter how much news they read. It isn’t a matter of greed; it’s a matter of keeping the lights on. And if Murdoch chooses to monetize his content completely, then Google and Microsoft have no right to take his content and serve ads around it.
To be sure, committing to a business model that sells content means that content will have to stand out a bit. If Murdoch’s content stands out to the point where people are willing to pay, then he should charge. And if not, the problem will correct itself.