Rupert Murdoch, the cantankerous media mogul and iconoclast has long been known for his criticism of free access to news on the Internet. Going so far as to accuse Google and other search engines of being 'content kleptomaniacs,' the tabloid titan is continuing to seek new ways to charge for online news.
With the 'tablet wars' in full swing, Murdoch is leading the charge in developing a new national digital newspaper to be distributed exclusively as paid content for iPads and other tablet devices in market, or about to be launched.
According to Dawn C. Chmielewski in an LA Times report, "the initiative - which would directly compete with the New York Times, USA Today an other national publications- is the latest attempt by a major media organization to harness sexy new devices to reach readers who increasingly consume their news on the go." This would also allow Murdoch to charge for the content vis a vis subscription fees.
Rupert MurdochSeeing the move as a game-changer, the 79-year-old Murdoch announced this initiative during the company's August 4 earnings call. To differentiate this news format from the other larger legacy newspapers that have already struck deals with Apple for iPad subscriptions, the new digital platform proposed by Murdoch appears to want to 'dummy down' the content offering short, snappy stories that people can digest 'on the go.'
At the D8 Conference back in June, Fox News interviewed Murdoch regarding his interest in iPads and digital devices for news dissemination
While TechCrunch is calling Murdoch's offering the "iPaper," there is no official title given to the publication yet - and I think Apple might have a few things to say about the selection of that name.
Advertisers are very keen to advertise on these types of tablet-based editions of the news served up on devices like iPad. Tablets have been widely praised for their short-term readability capability - and have attracted the attention of advertisers who know they need to gravitate to new distribution channels as the number of print readers have waned significantly over the last ten years.
However, while Murdoch is adapting to the new technology available to disseminate the news, it doesn't appear that he is integrating any social media to stimulate user-generated content.
In a article I posted back in March titled, "Is USA Today's 'Social Media Lounge' A Little Late To The Party?", I critiqued USA Today on this same issue. While USAT created a social microsite (called the "Social Media Lounge") to extend their online presence in the social media space, the add-on appeared to be limited to not much more than a blog and event listings - when first introduced.
Its true that a newspaper might have inherent difficulty in developing a full blown social network - as evidenced by Murdoch's Wall Street Journal failing miserably in trying to replicate a LInkedIn product last year. But it does seem to me important for a news format like the one that Murdoch is planning to integrate social media feeds from Twitter and Facebook, particularly those updates that resonate in real-time, in advance of traditional media's breaking news.
With Murdoch's print publications hemorrhaging readers exponentially, if he is going to transition his readership to a 'tablet' digestible format for a fee, he best include those readers in on the conversation. While the News Corp mogul has failed elsewhere, this new approach might gain some traction in the short-term due to its novelty - but over the long-haul, I think his proposal lacks foresight and vision.
As TechCrunch reporter Paul Carr sums it up, "at 79 years old, the undisputed king of newspapers really has nothing to lose by taking one last roll of the digital dice before giving up the ghost for good. If nothing else, it makes for a great headline."