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Charging for online news

Robert Peston | 16:32 UK time, Thursday, 6 August 2009

Although news organisations are fierce competitors, there was an almost audible sigh of relief from most of them when Rupert Murdoch said that News Corporation would start charging for access to its online news sites.

Rupert MurdochIt's not just that the worst advertising recession in living memory means that many newspaper groups are incurring losses.

It's that even after a fall for most of them of between 20% and 30% in their income this year from advertising, and even if the recession may be drawing to a close, they fear that there could be a further fall in revenue from that source over the next three years - simply because technological change is giving new options to advertisers for promoting their goods and services.

So if the costs of gathering news are to be met, a new source of income has to be found.

That said, no media group was desperately keen to be first to start charging for online news.

But once one media group charges, the chances are they all will.

The implications are significant, though not completely clear.

In particular, there are many different ways of charging: on a per day basis via micropayment; or on a subscription; or payment for one service or for a bundle of services, along the lines of Sky Television

Rival media organisations may club together to form online consortia of news services: so, for example, the websites of competing newspapers would be available behind a single subscription wall, in the way that - right now - it's possible to subscribe to bundles of TV channels from competing providers.

Of course there are also implications for how commercial news groups will see the free online news service provided by the BBC.

It's probably no coincidence that last weekend the Sunday Times - owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation - published an editorial claiming that the BBC News website represents unfair competition for news groups facing profound economic and technological pressures.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Oh well I suppose I'll no longer be able to read the free items on Murdoch papers. Hang on a mo why do I want to pay to read Murdoch papers anyway?

    Kidding aside it will be interesting to see how this pans out. I suspect the market still isn't ready to start paying for news on the internet when there is so much free competition just a click away. For all of Aunties faults I'd scream blue murder if BBC online was taken away because I'm not paying for Murdoch's papers.

  • Comment number 2.

    Goodbye NewsCorp, you won't be missed.

    I won't pay a penny for his sites. I haven't bought a newspaper in years, and when last I did (or I read one in a chinese takeaway) I found very little of interest in them. The few items on areas I do care about are so hopelessly inaccurate that you have to question whether it's worth the bother in the first place.

    There are ad-supported models and ad-supported sites that do a far better job of catering to the things I am interested in.

    It's not that I expect to get his content for free, it's that I don't give a monkeys about his content whether it's free or not. Murdoch closing his stuff off just means he won't get any visitors.

    And frankly it'll be fun to watch him thrash on the way down, he's had too big an influence on western democracy for too long.

  • Comment number 3.

    Robert, and your point is..? As an independent publisher myself, scrabbling around for the limited advertising revenue out there, I find it rather galling to have to compete against the BBC for readers when my own money funds the BBC.

  • Comment number 4.

    Rupert Murdoch has got away with many many things over the years that have seemed commercially unwise at the time, but this may be a signal that he has lost it, rather more than usual, or rather that his cash cows of the media are hurting very badly indeed in this recession because of the advertising slump.

    I can't see Google charging for searches, but if it did!!!! That puts his idea into a proper context and demonstrates its lack of commercial common sense. Rupert Murdoch is signalling the end of his media empire - like Nero burning it before he goes. (Although Nero actually didn't!)

    However he is making an excellent point and that is that the internet and its information cost enormous sums of money and by saying this he is perhaps indicating an end to the internet as a source of 'free' news. There may be a time when only despots and dictators (and banks) are prepared to fund the internet!

  • Comment number 5.

    "Rival media organisations may club together to form online consortia of news services"

    Sounds like a cartel to me, for once hopefully the EU will intervene.

  • Comment number 6.

    Yeah - good luck with that Rupert....don't you realise your news is so inaccurate and biased that no-one will bother paying for it.

    People only watch it on TV because it comes with the package.

    News Value = 0

    I spent 3 weeks avoiding all news and it amde my life 100% happier - and I didn't miss a thing that actually mattered in the long term!

  • Comment number 7.

    This is user 'nautonier' and not 'you'.

    How long willl it be before customer use of online news services is also being taxed by the government?

  • Comment number 8.

    There are plenty of free information sites on the web. Although the standard brands remain popular they may find the newer web users will not have any loyalty to them. This is one of those, wait and see. They may lose the readers they currently have and I wouldn't bet on the competitors jumping on board this ship, it may be sinking. BBC has some mandate to educate the such mandate for the private papers. I guess using his logic he will make a case for a private army. I think he would like to conquer countries.

  • Comment number 9.

    Bobby Peston wrote: "Of course there are also implications for how commercial news groups will see the free online news service provided by the BBC."

    It's not free - the license fee pays for it.

    If it wasn't for the BBC's online, radio and podcast content, I would be joining the rowdies calling for an end to the license fee.

  • Comment number 10.

    Post 7 still showing incorrect username - should be nautonier

  • Comment number 11.

    I am no particular admirer of Rupert Murdoch but for me it makes sense. There is no reason why the Internet should be a "free lunch". I like what is free as much as anyone, but this is an acknowledgement that creating material for the internet is creating value (I'll avoid comparison with some other activities) that deserves to be paid if it finds an appreciative audience.

  • Comment number 12.

    To: Mr R. Murdoch c/o The Sunday Times.
    RE: The BBCs unfair advantage.
    REPLY: Hard cheese dingo. The whole of the UK pays for the BBC - its our service and you will be looooooong gone before that changes, so youll just have to find another "Revenue stream" to milk wont you? I do not read any newspapers (Because I dont trust a single one of them) and I do not, and never will have, cable or satellite TV. Why do I want your 200 channels of mindless trash when I already have a fantastic service with the BBCs TV, radio and news website? So I am delighted to say that not one single penny of my hard-earned has ever gone into your pocket. You are nothing to me but an annoying little man.

  • Comment number 13.

    BBC News is not 'free', it is a result of enforced subscription.

    If people living in cloud cuckoo land like Murdoch want to change that then the answer is probably to repeal the legislative requirement for a television licence (NB it doesn't quite work that way anyway since people who do not pay a tv licence can use the web site, including those living outside the UK).

    However, if online news goes onto any basis other than free, I simply won't use the web for that purpose and I am certain that most people will do the same. I can get by quite happily watching the news on tv once a day.

    What will happen then is that most news sites will have a low subscriber base, generating little revenue from subscriptions and because they have few subscribers that will also hit any advertising revenue. Ergo, they go bust.

    So you may be right that they are breathing a sigh of relief, Robert, and you may also be right that such charges become ubiquitous, but only for a short time until the whole lot of them go down the pan.

    The correct way to see this IMO is that in tough economic times... well, things get tough and you try to ride it out - possibly you pare your business down to what the market will support and try to hold on.

    Trying to foist unsustainable costs onto the consumer will ensure that you have no-one consuming your product. I cannot imagine what Murdoch thinks he can do that will make any difference to the pay/no-pay decision but I am certain that it is totally unrealistic.

    Where I do think there is a big gap in the market is in radio news and current affairs. I spend 2 hours in the car each day and listen to utter drivel most of the time on the radio - most of it devoted to music of some sort or discussion of what might best be called "niche" issues. Radio 4 does a few decent programmes but also plenty of twaddle.
    I think a decent current affairs channel would do well; for me that would be a good use of driving time that is otherwise fairly useless.

  • Comment number 14.

    "But once one media group charges, the chances are they all will."

    This has got to be the biggest shot in the arm for the BBC since the last British coronation, either that or Murdoch has just shot himself in both feet!...

  • Comment number 15.

    I love how the Times tries to say that the BBC News website is bad for democracy. Rupert must think that his wallet is the same thing as democracy.

  • Comment number 16.

    If Rupert Murdoch charges for news, I hope an entrepreneurial type will seize the opportunity to create a free site that offers UNBIASED REPORTING which will (please, oh please, oh please) attract enough advertising to secure its future and its popularity breaks Murdoch's megalomaniacal hold on the media.

  • Comment number 17.

    It's an interesting development that many predicted. I wonder if people will pay. Most people can get news from the TV, radio and other media. I suppose it comes down to whether you buy into Murdoch's view of the world. I used to read The Times but found the 'quality' reporting just wasn't there. I do pay for news; I subscribe to The Economist, New Internationalist and there's always ATAC in France. For me, Murdoch has nothing to offer. I didn't read his news when it was free, I'm certainly not going to start paying for it.

  • Comment number 18.

    Oh well, I certainly won't be paying for any of the rubbish that NewsCorp spits out.

    It certainly won't be missed from the few times I have clicked a link and ended up on one of those sites.

    I really hope it backfires big time - just for the fun of laughing at how they'll spin it.

  • Comment number 19.

    This is how the mainstream media will commit suicide.

    I'll never charge for my stuff.

  • Comment number 20.

    'Of course there are also implications for how commercial news groups will see the free online news service provided by the BBC'. It isn't - those in the UK pay a licence fee which I assume pays your salary. I hope the BBC doesn't think this is an opportunity to charge us twice.

    Parking the financial aspects on one side, the BBC reaches a worldwide audience with its website and impartial reporting. Charging will reduce that footprint, which would be a great shame.

  • Comment number 21.

    #3. At 5:31pm on 06 Aug 2009, hclemmow wrote:

    "Robert, and your point is..? As an independent publisher myself, scrabbling around for the limited advertising revenue out there, I find it rather galling to have to compete against the BBC for readers when my own money funds the BBC."

    But it's not, one doesn't have to pay the BBC a penny to use either the radio or web services, choose to use a TV then you also choose to fund Public Service Broadcasting (PSB), any description of PSB - even in that bastion of the "Free Market", the USA - includes both current-affairs and news - so might I ask what your 'point' was what, exactly?...

  • Comment number 22.

    The is something in *how* you buy stuff. A freshly minted news paper, on the stand and copper dosh in the pocket slips one-to-the other so much easier than having to worry about security - online personal info and what not.

    It wont stop news papers being history - save them for the collectors.

    I relish the time we have monitor screen resolution equal to my Nikon DSLR camera and self calibration and then I want true high dynamic range imaging.

  • Comment number 23.

    Since when was the BBC web site a free service? Whilst the licence fee continues, us Brits are supporting it.

    Anyway, as previously stated, who will miss Murdoch's drivel? Only the sad people who want to look at pictures of half-naked women or read about the lives of irrelevant celebs.

  • Comment number 24.

    There is one slight flaw in Mr Murdoch's idea. A lot of people won't pay for the inaccurate and biased reporting.
    The BBC already charges for its website via the licence fee and any increase in the fee would be fought. After all, we do have to have something and the TV is dire these days.
    In fact, come to think of it, no news for a few weeks would be very pleasing. Careful, jounalists, we just might learn you are not needed!

  • Comment number 25.

    Glad you heard my cries in the previous blog RP, but where's the scoop?!

    This is a bit of repetition really, hardly ground breaking stuff. I appreciate I'm being fussy- you are reporting, but isn't the real stuff here how will then, when will they, how much will they charge? What are the answers?

    However, great to see you actually do read these blog comments...

  • Comment number 26.

    #16 - Brilliant!!!

  • Comment number 27.

    Take a look at Jeff Jarvis and his discussions on new(s) media at Charges have been tried before by the New York Times and they went back to free online content.

    To me it all comes down to why run a news paper. If you want to make money at it people have to want to pay to read it. If the journalism is good enough or has enough value to the reader, they will pay. I pay for FT online (well my boss does) because it provides information I need to know. I don't buy the Sun because it doesn't tell me anything that I can't hear down the pub.

    By slapping a price tag on his online content Murdoch is suggesting that the Times offers something special. The consumer will be the judge of that. Bust in a month is my guess.

  • Comment number 28.


    "I am no particular admirer of Rupert Murdoch but for me it makes sense. There is no reason why the Internet should be a "free lunch"."

    Of course not, anyone can charge what they like, for what they like, the problem is until all media companies charge (and I mean all) for the same type of content then people will go where it's still free rather than pay - why do you think ITV caught a cold over the "Friends Reunited" sites, once people could search for and contact friends (old and not so old) on sites such as Facebook trying to charge for the same 'privilege' on FR made no sense, ITV tried holding out against the tide and we see the end result today!

    If all the UK and USA news media outlets, including the BBC, were to try and charge me for accessing online news I would just make even more use of English Language versions of European media sites, many such sites are funded in the same way as the BBC's World Service and would be more than welcoming of new users...

  • Comment number 29.

    Charging for news on the internet is just what the government wants. It will wait a while for the fuss to die down and everybody gets used to paying for it and then pull the plug on the Internet and introduce Internet.2, a pay to view internet where the government taxes everybody that uses it. This the end of freedom!(with accent on free).

  • Comment number 30.

    "Of course there are also implications for how commercial news groups will see the free online news service provided by the BBC. "

    Err did I miss somthing has the license fee just been abolished!

    Most homes in Britian pay towards the BBC and thus your salery, you could at least get your facts right before writing an article!

    What we should be asking is if this goes ahead, and others follow suite then why should the British TV Tax payer fund free news for the rest of the world? Anwser? It shouldn't! A few redundant journalists is hardly going to make the recesion worse now is it!

  • Comment number 31.

    We could all do with a lot less "news", virtually nothing that happens requires the latest fad for the instant news story (this blog included).

    I know creating news stories that panicking our politicians into stupid actions is good sport, but it really does nothing good.

    So charge away.

  • Comment number 32.

    It will only work if the Newscorp product is worth the price premium (ha!) or every single news site, news agency, public broadcasting site (i.e. BBC online), user forum, blogging site and social networking site charges for access to their content too.
    I enjoy keeping up to date with the news, but not to the extent where I have to pay extra to access it, rather than wait a few hours until I get home and watch it on TV.
    Free sites WILL become more abundant and prolific, especially if they offer unbiased reporting. For those who enjoy the ego-massaging opinion pages, Twitter is still free...
    It also begs the question of how Newscorp is going to manage to keep this premium content premium: Many sites often carry the same press releases, and sometimes plagarise entire portions from other articles. If that's the way professional journalism works, do you really think that the amatuers, inspired by Napster and Pirate Bay will play by Mr Murdoch's charging rules?

  • Comment number 33.

    Good riddance! this is probably going to be Murdochs biggest mistake in his career...ah well can't win them all

  • Comment number 34.

    Well if he goes down that route I would hope that the BBC will remove his "organs" from your links or at least charge him for them. I don't think that Murdoch is correct in this decision and it means I will never visit his sites again. I used to go to the Times and its Archive when it was free but otherwise I rarely visit. The Telegraph started charging for its crosswords and I have never paid for these. As the amount of people visiting the "Times" and "the dirty diggers T*T mag" will now diminish presumably he will lose more advertising revenue than he will gain in revenue.

  • Comment number 35.


    i think that this idea of charging for news, is simply a bad idea...and, it will not work....since, most people will find other sources for information....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 36.

    This news is a bit hyped up because it came from Mr Murdoch but I don't think companies will be rushing to charge it's customer base with subscription or any other charges for the news as the content is available and will be available freely. The website are more or less extension of their main business that's Newspaper or Television channel. They already have the stories and content for their main channel of news be it newspaper or television so all they are doing is putting the content on the websites so it's not at an extravagant cost and all the adverts should easily be able to cover it. It's a bit like when microsoft and yahoo though about charging for e-mails but then decided against it as people would just have moved to another free provider and all they did was charge for premium e-mail accounts which only a few people actually use.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    "Of course there are also implications for how commercial news groups will see the free online news service provided by the BBC."

    Good one Bobby, if it didn't cost so much and the sentence for not paying is a fine and possible prison I'd have laughed out loud!!!!

    ...... we now see as the BBC impinges more and more into the commercial market that choice will be restricted rather than expanded

    I still can't work out why the BBC doesn’t stick to the basics..... why do we have god knows how many regional channels, regional radio stations, what's with the free video streaming - charge for it and see if it washes it's face.... and 90% of the BBC web site is a waste of money!

    Start living in the real world for a moment and tell us if most of what you do is viable!!!

    I always love comparing the adverts......
    Sky - Extolling the benefits of subscribing to films, movies, etc
    Virgin - Movies on demand, content....
    BBC - How much you'll be fined if you don't pay your licence fee!!! (stunning that someone would produce an ad that bullies its customers...)

    Only someone working for the BBC would come out with such an insesitive comment.....

  • Comment number 39.

    Murdoch and his ilk do not understand the internet (proven by him vastly overpaying for investment now written down by a massive $680 million... how on earth did he think he could make a return on capital?) now he thinks people will pay for his so called the UK the Times and the Sunday Times used to be papers of record, now they have dumbed down to a level slightly above a comic....I have at my fingertips hundreds of news sources and i cant see many of them starting to charge a reading fee...Rupert a little free advice worth a lot more than the advice your highly paid advisers give you... making your newspapers payable will be the beginning of the end of you newspaper empire don't do it..

  • Comment number 40.

    It's easy to be reactionary here, but I think this is a real problem. A 'free press,' as disgusting as it sometimes becomes, is a point of pride for a Western Democracy - we need to encourage diversity here and the Observer's problems trouble me just as much as ITV's.

    On the other hand, the BBC is an excellent institution and the envy of many. We shouldn't forget that - more than the money - it's successful because it's a high-quality service. No quick fix? Perhaps all well-read media outlets should receive a cut of a remade license fee.

  • Comment number 41.

    I will not pay for on-line news from providers I do not trust.

    BBC on-line is paid for from the licence fee!

  • Comment number 42.

    While I personally do not care one way or the other whether the Murdoch empire or any other news service which relies on advertising revenue for it's income charge for web access, there are implications which are potentially serious.

    There has to continue to be a reliable source of in depth news coverage which is free of charge if democracy is not to be seriously in doubt. Of course, the BBC, for as long as it is financed from the licence fee will continue this function in respect of domestic audiences and the requirements of the charter but what of those us who still have the right to vote but live or work primarily overseas. The BBC has no such constraints on its operations to this market. Websites for overseas consumption aleardy carry advertising, I-Player of TV coverage is restricted (although radio is available) and BBC domestic channels are only available on expensive high end subscription packages to cable consumers. Cn we rely on the BBC to ensure that services such as web based news will continue to be free to the expat community or will they be tempted by the latest moves to maximise the commercial potential by joining in?

  • Comment number 43.

    Over the years Mr Murdoch has degraded 'news' to the level of minor celebrity tittle-tattle, football soap-opera and big brother gossip.

    If advertisers are choosing to put their hard earned cash elsewhere, it should tell him something about the product he is offering.

    The news market-place has moved on and his papers are past their sell-by date.

  • Comment number 44.

    Google News will be the next innovation!

  • Comment number 45.

    Those who made comments about the BBC's online news contnet is not 'free' but paid for by the licence fee, surely the same is true of the Times online etc. - that is paid for by those who buy the printed edition or buy advertising space?

    Read 'Free' as 'Free at the point of use', just like the UK's NHS is...

  • Comment number 46.

    There is an interesting adjacent issue about this - with the advent of BBC iplayer and similar mechanisms on the commercial channels, I can foresee a time when the TV in the corner of the room will become a thing of the past for many, with the computer screen taking its place as the main 'entertainment screen' for broadcast media. In which case, and assuming that a licence fee is only applicable to a TV set (correct me if I'm wrong), then the BBC's funding stream will eventually shrink in line with the commercial stations' dwindling advertising revenue...won't it? With the internet becoming the primary source for news, TV programmes and any amount of other entertainment models, within 5 years I can imagine a completely different funding requirement fo auntie and the commercial boys.

    It has amazed me for some time that, given the option of paying 90p for Rupert's rag or just viewing the paper's content online, the notion of charging for access has not cropped up before. If one can live with the mild inconvenience of watching 'delayed' TV progs online, then the TV licence and the newspaper are doomed media outlets.

    Alternative funding will soon be of paramount importance for all.

  • Comment number 47.

    How many watch TV (a significant amount) or buy a newspaper these days?

    With broadband at home and at work, we have no need to watch TV any more, and the Sunday Times is almost ready for the chop as we rarely read 50% of it.

    TV programming in the UK is pretty awful, and the newspapers just don't have anything to appeal any more.

    We 'lost' our TV during a roof rebuild over last Xmas, and although it didn't get back on until May of this year, we didn't miss it and having got out of the habit, it just gathers dust.

  • Comment number 48.

    Papers that have genuinely unique content like the FT and the Economist have failed to make fees stick. New Corps doesn't have anything comparable - certainly not in the UK - and will fail too.

  • Comment number 49.

    For the first time in his career, Murdoch is being forced to do something against his will.
    Thus, for the first time in his career, it will fail.

    Hurrah, but long overdue.

    Those who were already know this.

  • Comment number 50.

    Forgive me if my heart doesnt bleed to see his corporation in trouble....perhaps he should consider reigning in his spending on football for example,trying to make me feel guilty for his bad business plan is not going to work.He can charge what he likes tbh because on the rare occasion i end up on a news corp site it wont be a miss for me.

    He could also start blocking access to other peoples sites on his internet service which would be a worry for a lot of his present subscribers

  • Comment number 51.

    So the papers reckon the BBC website is unfair competition.

    Perhaps they forget that I pay £142 per year for the BBC's services through my Licence.
    And to be honest I make only a little use of the TV programmes directly.
    So I reckon I should be able to read the news when it suits me on the BBC.
    In the 46 years since I set up my own home, I have never had a regular daily or weekend paper. My news was and still is delivered electronically from a number of sources.

  • Comment number 52.

    Robert, I've heard on the "grapevine" that Rupert is going to offer you a job at twice your present salary and much more expences. Is this true?

  • Comment number 53.

    So which services are NewsCorp going to charge for?

    Your article isn't very specific, and the BBC is probably unfair competition, but since it no longer breaks any stories or investigates more than what the government puts out in press releases that should put the dead tree press at an advantage

    ...and why have you moved away from the Economy when the BoE says the recession may be worse than initially anticipated. I know we have comments on the QE everywhere else but how about some restatement of the things you have said recently because the BoE doesn't share your optimism?

    Or will we be blaming the Tories, or the ending of Mervyn's contract for not towing the party line?

  • Comment number 54.

    I think ciderwithdozy (#46) is mistaken, along with others who see the relevance of the TV Licence fee receding over time. I would argue that with online viewing becoming more commonplace it would be prefectly easy (and would make some sense) to make online viewing subject to an annual charge (or quarterly, etc) so that users have a log - on and password issued, without which online viewing would be impossible. We could even call the payment, er, a Licence fee, and those with an "ordinary" licence would get a "complimentary" log - on and password.

    Preventing abuse (i.e. telling everyone you know what your access codes are) would be easily achievable given the amount of background data that computer systems exchange without either the knowledge or involvement of the user. One simple preventative measure is to immediately deny service to both persons "A" and "B" when the make the silly mistake of both using the same log - in at the same time!

    I fear that too many people have got into the mindset that everything they want on the internet should somehow be "free". Or at least free to them.

  • Comment number 55.

    So I guess Murdoch charging for news is the main reason why he attacks the BBC at every opportunity. I mean to say he can't have a competitor undermining him by giving it all for free. I just hope the politicians, especially those that take Murdoch's money and support, don't jump on the Murdoch anti-BBC wagon. Good old Beeb! I'll vote for you.

  • Comment number 56.

    #44 Actually has been around for years. It draws in content from all over the internet and presents it on a single page.

    Information and News being passed around on the internet is to pervasive now. For instance, a lot of people I know discovered that Jackson was dead on Facebook not Even the BBC use Twitter as a source sometimes as story is unfolding, its now possible for thousands of people to get an eye witness report before a journalist even gets there. Hence, paid for News has to be a failure waiting to happen. Then again, I am no where near as rich as Murdoch so he probably knows much better than I do.

    Surpised that you aren't blogging about another £50 billion worth of Quantative Easing rather than an entry about a tired old man losing his marbles.

  • Comment number 57.

    #56 bobbles31

    Too true!

  • Comment number 58.

    This is Pyongyang calling...The DPRK news service has nothing to learn from the xenophobic, mysogonistic, capitalist lickspittle that is NewsCorp.

    We have making stories up since before Murdoch was a child. Our news is much more unbelievable than his news. We once persuaded all citizens of the DPRK that BMW was a Korean company, but the Americans came by night to steal all our cars. Murdoch has nothing on us. If it were not for the sanctions imposed by your reactionary governments Radio DPRK would step into the breach and peddle all the falsehoods you can imagine - and all for free.

    Remember - our lies are cheap lies!!

  • Comment number 59.

    #56 bobbles31 wrote:

    'Surpised that you aren't blogging about another £50 billion worth of Quantative Easing rather than an entry about a tired old man losing his marbles.'


    He's not just any 'tired old man'...he is the antichrist!

  • Comment number 60.

    I have always had a problem removing the Fluck and Law Spitting image version of Rupert Murdoch from the real life oddity. He always seemed to enjoy being excessively flatulent, sadly his prostate and his old age seem to have caused him to poop in his own nest this time. At a time when most people are cutting back, the chances of any of us paying to read his online newspapers is at best slender, and at worst just rather silly.
    Andy Barnes

  • Comment number 61.

    Frankly, I just love the idea of Rupert Murdoch feeling the pinch just as I would pay to read his bankruptcy notice but to be realistic, someone has to pay the journalists who glean the news and with newspaper sales falling rapidly (Observer group also recently surrounded by rumour) income has to be raised somewhere.

    One thing is sure; it will have to be via a fixed monthly/annual sub and that in itself will create competition. Should be fun.

  • Comment number 62.

    Thank you for this article Robert!

    Whatever the faults of the BBC, and of individual flawed human being reporters, it will always be better than NewsCorp, and its biased agenda plugging Murdoch's political and commercial interests.

    For example, would we have had proper reporting of Tienanmen Square with Murdoch? The way his Chinese Star TV group has been run demonstrates that although he may bully in a democracy, he toadies to autocracy. As the late Mao Zedong might have said: this imperialist is a paper tiger.

    The truth is, he doesn't want "fair" competition: he wants his own monopoly, just as with football.

    The BBC is an important public service, and that should always come before commercial interest. So far as I am concerned, Murdoch can foxtrot oscar to the kingdom of Hades: He has swapped nationality once already, I'm sure he would try to become a citizen there too if he thought it suited him.

  • Comment number 63.

    In response to the idea that the BBC website represents unfair competition; the website is not free. It is part of a bundle of services (namely TV channels) that is paid for on an annual mandatory subscription basis (known as the licence fee).

  • Comment number 64.

    To quote you Robert : "But once one media group charges, the chances are they all will."
    Why should that be? In the real world, if you're running a commercial concern, and one of your competitors starts charging when you don't, or raises its prices higher than yours, you regard it as an opportunity to undercut him and clean up. But why is it that certain sectors, notably the media, banks and building societies, operate cartelism whereby a business opponent's price increase is regarded as a trigger to do the same? Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 65.

    I think what this is, sorry Bob, but its the end of journalism.

    Hacks like you and yer ilk will be the past.

    The future is all phones(with a camera) will have a broadcast button.

    Newscorp is dead, well soon anyhoots.RIP

  • Comment number 66.

    Newspapers ceased to have value when they prohibited wrapping chips in them.

    As for charging for internet news I would not willingly pay for any of them. Even the BBC site contains little news and lots of opinion, a bit like the Daily Mirror 30 years ago. For example (from BBC story)

    THE NEWS: The Bank of England's rate-setters have decided to pump another £50bn of new money into the economy in their programme of quantitative easing.
    OPINION (from same article): BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders said that the Monetary Policy Committee's (MPC) £50bn expansion of the programme had surprised many in the markets.
    MORE OPINION: Stephen Timms, financial secretary to the Treasury, said he thought the Bank had made the right judgment.
    AND MORE OPINION: There will now be increased focus on the Bank's latest economic projections, which will be published in the quarterly Inflation Report on Wednesday, 12 August.

    To my mind the BBC built it's excellent reputation on reporting just the facts, over the years it has turned more towards reporting in a magazine manner, to it's detriment. Still the best of a mediocre bunch though.

  • Comment number 67.

    Rupert Murdoch is no fool (old or otherwise)
    He has seen the future of traditonal newsprint as dead and sees a new delivery method in the internet.
    His target is not the general desktop PC user but the new palmsize and netbook user, It will come bundled with some kind of News/Movies/Sport/Phone/Broadband/Mobile package.
    He wants to own the supply chain of media and communications from end to end.
    He has the power to do it.
    He is Citizen Kane

    #29 bobinsussex. You already pay tax on your broadband.

  • Comment number 68.

    It will not work, the value within the Internet is extracted via links to the advertisers, the content needs to good enough to attract the customers that will click on those links.

    The customers which the newspaper industry believe their content attracted are finding the advertisers elsewhere via other content, which has nothing to do with newspapers, and is more relevant to what the advertiser wants greatly increasing the chance of their products/services being purchased.

    A newspaper is a one size fits all solution whereas the Internet can be used to filter only the news an individual person is interested in.

    Mr. Murdock and it appears your good self have failed to grasped how the Free model works, I repeat via links. Write an article of great content and the objective is to have all blogs and websites that specialise in the subject of that article to link to it, once a customer clicks through to the article then the adverts are there.

    Charging for the content is akin to creating a wall that will stop these links being created, which in turn will stop the article appearing in the Google search results as its main criteria for relevance is the links to the content. In short, the newspaper content will disappear from the Internet as it cannot be found as no one will link to charged content.

    The exception to this rule is the FT and Wall Street Journal, as they provide content which gives value to the customer in making investment decisions.

    It should be noted that the Guardian is doing very well in the USA and it maximised the opportunity provided to it by the New York Times until it finally chose to make its content free and go for the advertising money offered by web links.

    If the BBC were not offering the content for free then the mass of customers would just gather their information from other web sites that do. This is avoiding the fact that if the content were better than the BBC then people would go to that content and the advertisers that are linked to it. The loss of income has little to do with the BBC, it is the newspapers failure to adjust to the technology and the infinite choice people have for content.

    When a customer purchases a newspaper it is virtually guaranteed that they are not interested in all the content e.g. content for page 3 of the Sun can be in how many web sites, so why purchase the Sun anymore and be stuck with all the unwanted rubbish and irrelevant advertising.

    No newspaper will succeed in making money from their content unless the content can add genuine monetary value to a customer life. They need to get rid of all the cost of their printing machines, numerous editors, distributors etc. and move to an Internet model where the journalist writes, publishes to the web site and the WWW links to it where it is then found in the search engines, which are effectively the their newstands sending customer to read their content and any advertiser linked to that content.

    For the newspapers that understand links then it is music to their ears that Mr. Murdock and all other competitors will now start charging for their content. I doubt if all newpapers will do this, those that do not deserve to succeed and may many links come their way and the advertisers will follow.

    Lets see what Mr. Murdock does, if he is somehow able to come up with a business model that can compete with free then it will be his greatest achievement.

  • Comment number 69.

    The advertisers want targetted campaigns, 'premium' content on a package basis gives easy audience selection for both niche and broadcast ads.
    The general free access sources can only give broadcast non-targetted ads with no real measures of effectiveness.
    Tasters of the content can be made available and optimised for the search engines, SEO is not rocket science.

  • Comment number 70.

    #68 vieworacle wrote

    'Lets see what Mr. Murdock does, if he is somehow able to come up with a business model that can compete with free then it will be his greatest achievement.'

    Sky subscription packages in competition with freeview

  • Comment number 71.

    #29. At 6:27pm on 06 Aug 2009, bobinsussex wrote:
    Charging for news on the internet is just what the government wants. It will wait a while for the fuss to die down and everybody gets used to paying for it and then pull the plug on the Internet and introduce Internet.2, a pay to view internet where the government taxes everybody that uses it. This the end of freedom!(with accent on free).

    Bob, there is always one poster who blames the government for everything. The government cannot start "Internet.2". Please get a grip and make a comment relating to reality.

    Unfortunately Rupert Murdoch persuaded a lot of UK Sports fans to pay for coverage previously free to air by persuading sports governing bodies to take the "Murdoch" shilling. This ain't gonna happen with the news. Most web providers have news updates, and they are free. Murdoch is just playing a game.

  • Comment number 72.

    #53 StrongholdBarricades wrote

    '...and why have you moved away from the Economy when the BoE says the recession may be worse than initially anticipated.'

    is that 'initially anticipated' - 'We thought we knew what we were doing but we got it wrong'
    'hopefully anticipated' - "We didn't have a clue and we got it wrong anyway'

  • Comment number 73.

    Murdoch may have lost the plot on this one.....good.

    I do not subscribe to any satellite or cable provider and never will, simply not interested in a couple of hundred channels sheeple channels.

    Quite happy to pay my license fee and keep terrestrial tv.

    On the whole the BBC news is superior to the others and as for Murdochs papers.

    Now if only sky could buy and keep programmes like Big Brother....

  • Comment number 74.


    Murdoch will be on a hiding to nothing, the web is so full of information that new sites will deliver free news without his cost structure. Give it 6 months and this will be over and done with, net result will be the accelerated demise of the traditional paper much like the old fashioned cheque.

  • Comment number 75.


    "But once one media group charges, the chances are they all will."

    WRONG AGAIN Mr Peston!

    This will drive readers into the arms of the free services who will be able to charge more to their advertisers. Microsoft tried charging - Google blew them away.

  • Comment number 76.

    Sorry but this is laughable. All these media groups that have been bitter rivals for decades will club together all over the world and set charges for web users.

    There are many foreign ones that are sponsored either by the state or by rich patrons; Al Jazeera for one. No the media must get its act together and produce quality news instead of the "pap" stories that are sometimes little more than tittle tattle. Many UK news stories are mostly dismissed by most readers as New Liebour spin anyway - why have the UK media, and Murdoch papers in particular have become so supine and spineless. I can well understand why Andrew Neil fell out with Rupert Murdoch after all, Andrew had and still does have the old journalistic standards of inquisitiveness and integrity.

  • Comment number 77.

    The BBC is unfair competition - a state organisation forcing individuals to contribute. The licence should be ended now and the BBC go on a subscription basis. I certainly would not willingly pay for the BBC with its status quo supporting, biased and government friendly tone.

    I only go on this blog because of the interesting individuals who post, not for Peston's views as I know he is a shill. If I want proper business and economic analysis I go on the web and watch Peter Schiff, Max Keiser, Marc Faber etc etc.


  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 80.

    77. At 08:35am on 07 Aug 2009, truths33k3r wrote:

    "The BBC is unfair competition - a state organisation forcing individuals to contribute."

    Err, can you point me towards the law that states that every house/person has to own a television receiver and thus pay the licence fee - no? - thought not...

    If you don't want to pay the licence fee then you don't have to own a TV, radio in the UK is free - even from the BBC.

    I will tell you what is unfair competition, BSkyB, being able to control both delivery and content, there are some channels in the Sky EPG that I would like to receive but to do so I would need to pay a premium to Murdoch's NewsCorp. If the BBC is to loose it's funding model then Murdoch will have to loose his delivery arm and be a content provider only, subscriptions would have to be placed into an agency of Ofcom. Murdoch might blow hot air about the BBC but he knows that if he rocks the boat to much he could find himself thrown into the shark infested waters along with the BBC...

  • Comment number 81.

    #7 Nautonier

    It says "You" because you're logged on and the board software is clever enough to know that.

    If you log off it'll probably say "Nautonier"'s what the rest of us see.

  • Comment number 82.

    Dont buy his papers, wont buy his papers.
    I hope he completely fails which is what I expect to happen. Currently there are so many good intelligent news sites, that are accurate in what they report, it is not worth even looking at his stuff.
    The whole business model for all business's is changing and if anyone expects that to stop, where have they been for the last 20 years.
    And frankly this site is better than anything he has produced, so I would add my voice to "scream blue murder" if the BBC comtenplated charging.

  • Comment number 83.

    Interesting enough...

    Aside, why has no one spotted the Bank of England's constant manipulation of the pound. Everytime it starts to strengthen, out comes the bad news!!!

    They're beating the markets.

  • Comment number 84.

    Imagine being daft enough to pay for propaganda, lol this man is a joker!

  • Comment number 85.


    You are entitled to your opinion of course, but I doubt very much that Pesto is in any way responsible for this recession, or even for the pricking of the bubble.

    However, the longer the bubble was allowed to expand unpricked, the worse the eventual economic carnage would have been. If Pesto DID have a role in pricking it, then he has helped the long term economy, not damaged it.

    The journalists you should really be angry with are those self-confessed "experts" who sounded no warnings at all, and still crtiically worship risng markets as a good thing. One who comes to mind has an NI accent and looks like Penfold from Danger Mouse.

    The "property porn" TV programme makers also have a lot to answer for, in that they conned at least some of the public into believing that the housing market was a sure fire get rich quick scheme.

  • Comment number 86.

    80 - I meant that if you have a TV you are forced to pay for a licence - even if you do not watch the BBC. I think you knew that and are just being a big kidder.

  • Comment number 87.

    Has no one heard of a Canadian news corporation that is a subscription news site on the internet known as Naked News.
    Well, if I have to subscribe to a news website, Then Mr Murdoch has to come up with something better than that.
    It is certainly NOT the usual 'run of the mill' news reporting.

  • Comment number 88.

    Post 78

    Typical BBC. I post something that is negative towards Robert peston and they post the article then remove it becasue it does not just fit what they think. Old boys network again.

  • Comment number 89.

    Post 85

    I agrree its all about opinion and I also respect yours. I do however believe that Robert peston seems untouchable and unaccountable for any of his comments. I also feel he has no real feeling for the damage his comments may cause.

  • Comment number 90.

    #86. At 09:38am on 07 Aug 2009, truths33k3r wrote:

    "80 - I meant that if you have a TV you are forced to pay for a licence"

    By owning/using a television receiver you accept the law of the land, just as when you don't want to pay road fund tax you either don't use a car on the public roads or own a car, it's as simple as that, no one forces you to own/use a TV just as they don't force you to own/use a motor vehicle, or would you prefer to be forced to pay for Public Service Broadcasting via your PAYE (or what ever) tax contributions?!

    Sorry but those who think that the BBC (and it's funding model) is the villain here are either, in my opinion, employees of NewsCorp (!) or simply don't understand the significance of PSB (as a news and current affairs source) and why it would survive even if the TVL method of funding it was abandoned.

  • Comment number 91.


    [ re post 78 ]

    I suspect that it got referred because it was off topic for this blog, by your own admission it was off topic - read the house rules!

  • Comment number 92.

    ITV spent 175m buying a very succesfull Friends Reunited, it in a flash of genius decided to charge users for the service, it sold it this week for 25m.

    Like most readers I wont pay for online news, there will always be someone offering to provide the service free, anyone who charges will simply destroy that part of their business.

    We are seeing a continuing state of denial around new media, this constant canute like attitude to mantain the status quo will only end in disaster for those who are living in the dark ages.

    Reform or die, charge at your peril.

  • Comment number 93.

    The fact of the matter is that the internet is rewriting the rules of business (and of politics, incidentally) by lowering the barriers to entry. As a result the models of existing oligopolies and oligarchs are irreversibly undermined, and no amount of tweaking will enable them to maintain their supernormal profits. New oligopolies may well arise of course (Google being the obvious case-in-point), but by their nature existing ones are rarely nimble or prescient enough to adapt themselves to dominate a new landscape. Such is the nature of revolution. Vivre la révolution!

  • Comment number 94.

    Post 88

    Get you with the rule book. So how is it in Mr Clever Glogs world!!

  • Comment number 95.

    I stopped buying newspapers long ago because they're too expensive for what they are. I occasionally read free on-line newspapers if they're linked from some other site, but get my on-line news from the BBC and MSN. Taken together with the TV channels that are in my cable package - BBC, ITN, Channel 4, Sky, CNN and EuroNews, plus the local "Three Counties" radio in my car, I have quite sufficient news to meet my needs. I just can't see how on-line subscription newspapers will be commercially viable in the long term.

  • Comment number 96.

    This report genuinely worries me.

    Whatever you think of him, you have to admire his business savvy and that of those he employs, Sky was a classic of this vision, he went for it and priced everyone else out the market for Sport in the UK. Arguments at the time went why would anyone pay for satellite when it has nothing unique to offer and you can see the sport for free on TV - well guess what, now you can't see much of it for free (at the point of delivery) and it costs you around 3 times as much as the license fee to get it, if you can.

    So his announcement of attempts to charge for news is genuinely concerning. He must think it will work to pay for access to news, other proprietors will be only too happy to copy and join a model which charges for content to stem their losses.
    We already pay for newspapers and news magazines (a small number of people), none of it is cost free. So why would a shift from printed to electronic charged news be of concern? Outside the lost jobs in printing and papermaking which result and loss of another skill and industry (largely UK based).

    A concern because it provides another layer of cost barrier to people to obtain news - you will need a mobile web service, broadband, PC or some other method of accessing it. These are costly items, prone to wearing out and becoming obsolete and in need of replacement. The printed word is accessible to anyone without additional requirement (other than being able to read or be read to).

    How can we be made to pay for news? Well there really is only one way as with the satellite sports model, make sure there is no largescale competition which is free, i.e. no free (at delivery)BBC web prescence in the UK news market. Murdoch is already pushing this agenda vigourously as Robert notes.
    Premium news content? well that would be the journalism which is costly to provide. All those annoying little details such as checking and verifying facts (not opinions or agenda driven reporting which comprises much of the 'free' web content - and that does not mean it is not true in some cases, but it is single sourced by and large), seeking right to reply comment from the target etc. This is the costly piece of journalism. The quality of modern journalism has deteriorated as they have struggled to keep pricing down and relied on advertising to pay for the news in comeptition from other sources.

    What will 'free' news look like - it will look like IMHO, publishers opinion/agenda pieces, lobby and political press releases, advertorials and inflamatory teasers (e.g. Paedo's at large in your communities? want to know where - subscribe here) (you could argue so what difference from now, but our standards are still higher than this I believe). Some of the smaller less interesting stories which led on to bigger stories may just never be investigated - break in at the watergate - nah, no one will pay to read that, move on to this story about elvis.

    Whilst it is well known that different papers are biased in different ways and as only last week was shown at least one proprietor interferes in the editorial contents and uses them to settle business scores. We can be sure others are not hands-off, it is a famously partisan business. If there is no universal largely unbiased media generally available then my concern is that these biases will become more pronounced.
    If that happens then in addition to the dumbed down news we will end up in a position where there is no longer a free (as in free thought) press at all. It will be open to partisan bias for money or political advantage to the highest bidder.

    I am also concerned that the deal is already done that next year we will lose such BBC services as this one and the free news portals as the price of the support for the conservatives by News International during the campaign.

  • Comment number 97.

    Astonishing - Murdoch proves he's the king of propaganda and the BBC business blog laps it up and goes insane!

    All of those flash pictures of cars, perfume, movie trailers, etc - they're known as "adverts" and they provide the News Korp's online income on sites such as The Sun,The Times Online, etc. You know, those sites with largely the same content as the print versions. Whether the advertising slump is causing Murdoch problems is no ones concern other than Murdochs.

    There are hundreds of independent websites, blogs etc generating enough successful quantities of revenue to be successful thanks to online advertising. The fact that most of you reading this aren't aware of them just goes to show how well online advertising pays.

    This whole thing is a white elephant. If the News Korp fancies a subscription model then they'll have to offer something unique in order for it to be a success.

  • Comment number 98.

    I find it interesting that one of the most important parts of this story has not actually been picked up on by any of the 'journalists' (and I will come back to that later) reporting on it.

    This is the true usefullness and purpose of the advertising industry, its supposed importance within our economy, and the way it is regulated.

    According to the industry itself, advertising is vital. Apparantly none of us would think of feeding and clothing ourselves unless we were made aware of there being food and clothes to buy!
    In actuality it doesn't take much investigation and research (just ask a few colleagues at work as a starting point) to discover that the vast majority of the populace only really wants advertising in limited doses to give product awareness.

    We simply don't want the american model of how to show a tv program:
    Prolog, adverts, titles, adverts, 5 to 10 minutes of show, adverts, 5 minutes more, adverts... resolution, adverts, epilogue, adverts for next weeks show then more adverts.

    In fact, this model is incredibly damaging. Not only to the attention spans of those who choose TV as their primary form of media, but to the actual advertised products! What ends up happening is we develop a resentment for the products that are over featured.

    I for one wouldn't take out insurance with a certain company using a 'dom diddy dom' tune due to the fact that they showed their advert no fewer than 7 times during a single comedy show I was trying to watch. Seven times! Did they think we might have forgotten they insure cars?

    And for those commercials that are less irritating? Ask yourselves how often you have channel surfed the instant an advertisng break comes on? Or got up to make a cup of tea because you know you have the time?

    The overall result is an industry caught in a downward spiral. Lack of people paying attention due to their over prolification leads to an increase in prolification and further reduction in people paying attention.

    Ultimately this results in the situation we get every recesion:
    Because advertising is (rightly) percieved that in its current form it is non essential, it is one of the first cut backs to occur.

    But the truth is that in its correct form it actually is vital! A simple sign in a shop window letting passersby know about special offers is a prime example, or a sandwich board with the title of a newspapers leading story.

    So how can advertising be pulled back into line to make revenue from it more stable, and in doing so the foundations of the companies reliant upon it? Afterall this not only affects companies like News Corp, but also ones like ITV and many others.

    The simple answer may be to limit it.
    Remember that annoying ad of the 7 times within a half hour show from earlier? Well what if the same amount was paid for 2 adverts because the time allowed for advertising was limited and was thus more valuable?
    Would we stop noticing products being advertised and reduce product awareness, or would we do less channel surfing in the breaks and thus notice more?

    The trouble is that this is an industry of lowest common denominator, whether the participants want to be or not. As soon as one company starts to deluge the public with a torrent of low quality advertising, the public starts to avoid the sources of that deluge. In this atmosphere a high quality ad won't get noticed unless it too sends out a deluge of placements into the schedule.

    Such a system stifles the little guy, who may have a fantastic product that no one will get to hear about because no one is paying attention.

    It is a basic tenant of economics that all too many are willing to forget when they can exploit the system to make bigger short term profits- that a restricted supply increases the associated value.

    And it is on this point that we come back to News Corp and the journalists that currently dominate the news reporting that goes on in the world.

    Rupert Murdoch would argue that by restricting supply of news that it will become more valuable. But isn't his company one of the biggest culprits in devaluing it in the first place?

    The truth is we no longer have an industry of journalists as we would like to think of them, and as portrayed in movies by the likes of Robert Redford. What we actually have is a combination of beleagured copyists and greedy hacks who seem to spend 99% of their time simply passing on information put out in press conferences, or digging up dirt on celebrities in order to grab an exploitative headline that sells (to a public unused to getting real news anymore).

    Whilst some may critisise the reporters who brought out the information regarding MPs expenses, the truth is that this was the first piece of actual exposition of things the public should be informed about to get mainstream attention in a long time.

    Are people willing to pay for real news? Of course they are!

    Of late there has become a 'new phenomonon' of documentaries making big bucks in cinemas. Why? Because they are actually doing their job and reporting on things. They are going past the information handed out in press conferences or sitting outside residences and court houses to get a few 'exclusive' words from a passing PR representative. They are doing what every other journalist should be doing as standard. Finding out things for themselves and informing the public.

    Against a backdrop such as this, what is the economic viability of a 'news' organisation that wants you to pay so they can repackage the same information that is already being handed out on a platter for the public to swallow for free?

    No matter how good the packaging, the simple fact is that it's already available.

    Ultimately the only was this endevour can suceed is if a ban is placed on any journalism of higher standard the the mediocrity we are subjected to day in day out. I for one belive this will never succeed as long as people are capable of free thought!

  • Comment number 99.

    96. At 10:58am on 07 Aug 2009, Whistling_Neil wrote:

    "How can we be made to pay for news? Well there really is only one way as with the satellite sports model, make sure there is no largescale competition which is free, i.e. no free (at delivery)BBC web prescence in the UK news market. Murdoch is already pushing this agenda vigourously as Robert notes."

    And that is were Murdoch has got it so wrong here, the internet is not like satellite - or at least Murdoch's vision of what satellite is, a brand known as "Sky", dressed up as a satellite (service) - whilst it was possible to 'fool' the majority of the population that satellite = "Sky" when very few people had access to or even knew what satellite TV was back in the late '80s / early '90s the same is not true of the internet, it only needs one free news website and his whole business model goes out the window and for all Murdoch's bluster and hot air (never mind attacks against the BBC) he is not going to be able to stop companies like Google offering such news, nor is he going to be able to stop the state funded or supported media outlets from offering English language sites, if anything they are likely to increase their output (and any 'addclicks' that go along with the site)!

    "I am also concerned that the deal is already done that next year we will lose such BBC services as this one and the free news portals as the price of the support for the conservatives by News International during the campaign."

    Whilst I can see such problems for the BBC's non news content, both broadcast and web, I can't see that any Government will consider it wise to drive the population way from native news organisations and into the hands of other (quite possibly state backed) news media from outside the UK, would any UK Government want the population getting all their news from RT or Aljazeera for example, Murdoch's support might be welcome but it's not without a price that many will consider to high.

  • Comment number 100.

    NewsCorp is besieged by inadequate, heavily biased and trashy reporting on articles anyway. The free sources of news tend to be impartial and accurate (e.g. Metro and to be honest, BBC News), which is what we need more of.

    NewsCorp is a terrible curse on humanity. Good riddance if this causes the group to fall.


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