Posted May 23, 2010 7:19 am by with 2 comments

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Earlier this month I explored the idea that Rupert Murdoch’s impending paywall announcement was just that; impending. In a News Corp earnings call he said that the publishing giant would have something to announce in 3-4 weeks regarding a group of publishers that would be banding together to take specialized content and put it in an area that would require a subscription for access. The conventional wisdom, even for someone as adamant about the need to paywalls now, is that there needs to be a consortium of sorts to make this a reality.

Well, we are just about at the 3-week point of this self-imposed time line and there are some doubts as to just how real this whole deal is. Peter Kafka of All Things Digital reported earlier this week.

Within the next two weeks or so, we’re supposed to hear about Rupert Murdoch’s digital news subscription service–the one he has been trying to put together for many months.

One problem: That service is supposed to feature content from publications other than those owned by Murdoch. And sources familiar with News Corp.’s plans tell me Murdoch has yet to sign partners on to the venture.

News Corp. officials do say Murdoch is hopeful about bringing on Gannett (GCI), the publisher behind USA Today and 82 smaller papers. A person familiar with talks between the companies described them as “late stage.” A spokeswoman for News Corp. (NWS), which owns this Web site, declined to comment; Gannett officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Considering the announcement from earlier in the month and Murdoch’s constant harping on the paid subscription model that will be needed to be put in place for survival moving forward, this is a pretty big concern.

Did Murdoch make a play during the earlier ‘announcement’ to force the hand of some of the players he was trying to enlist for this venture? By making it ‘official’ and imposing deadline of sorts was Murdoch trying to make a save on something that has been in the works since last summer?

There is a lot on the line here. While major publishers feel the need to find other revenue models as advertising and readership in traditional newspapers continues to dry up, one has to wonder what those models will be. Not the least of which are marketers who will have to see if these new options are viable for them to jump on board with to advance their own needs.

I think that if this attempt to pull together some of the largest publishers falls way short of its intended mark it could set back the paywall model considerably. Murdoch already has one of the most successful paid online subscription plays with the Wall Street Journal but that’s for business folks who expect to pay for things. I am not convinced that the same opportunity exists in other consumer focused newspapers and other publications at all.

As a marketer who is charged with finding the best ways to get your product in front of the right people, with the right need at the time of that need what are thoughts on this idea? What would it need to look like in order for you to consider participating in any advertising options that may come out of such an effort? Do you need large numbers of subscribers or could a much smaller yet very defined slice of consumer be an attractive alternative as well?

Rupert Murdoch wants this to happen very badly. He apparently realizes that going it alone will severely limit his chances for a successful model. If it ends up that no one wants to play along for now he may not have another option other than shelving the one thing he believes is necessary for the future of his industry.

This is something we all should be watching with some interest because it could tell a lot about what may be needed to create revenue not just for publishers but for other online models as well.

Let’s face it, everything just can’t be free forever. It’s just not gonna work. Do you ave an opinion to share with us? Let’s hear it.

  • Could this be a threat to the online ad networks? I wonder how Google and Yahoo are going to face this. Google, Yahoo, Facebook and…. Murdoch?

  • g perkin

    Look to what is about to happen in australia, where Murdoch’s only major competitor, Fairfax publishing, is rumoured to be getting into bed with the Digger and launching a joint paywall offensive. It maes sense, too. Between them, they control 90% of australian media, so a pauwall duopoly would do the trick.