Rupert Murdoch announced this morning that News Corp will be charging readers for internet content.
Now ain't that a surprise? (That's sarcasm), BTW).
News Corp is the parent company of the Wall Street Journal, The New York Daily Post, The Times of London, MySpace, The Fox Broadcasting Network and media outlets around the world. It is unique in that it is pretty much the only multimedia company still making a profit, although those profits are not as big as they once were. Mr. Murdoch doesn't like not making as much money as he was a year ago, so he's doing something about it.
The Wall Street Journal has been charging for internet access for some time and they are making good money at it. A few other publications have toyed with it, but people said bad things about them so they stopped. Murdoch doesn't care what you think because he knows what he is producing is what people want and need.
This move is what the print media world has been waiting for: Someone to take the lead and find a new financial model. No one has really wanted to be first out of the block, but now an 800-pound gorilla has taken then initiative and you can expect things to move fairly quickly.
Now you may wonder what this has to do with you. After all, you get most of your information from Google, right? Well, Google doesn't produce that information. They channel it from places that do, like News Corp entities.
You won't be able to find much for free on the internet, other than amateur video and corporate news releases (badly written ones) that give you no real information. You are going to have to start paying for the real stuff now and that means you are going to start caring if that information is quality of corporate fluff. You are going to start paying attention to positions and facts that may not line up with what you already believe. And if you don't think you are getting it from that source of information, you're going to take your business elsewhere. You are going to want your news straight and true.
Ah, but you say you are an engineer and don't really care about the Wall Street Journal. Guess what, EE Times has been mulling over this same concept. Now that the gorilla has taken the plunge, expect Techinsights to be close behind. And if they are the only one, they may end up to be the only game in town. Portable Design closed down this week and from what I'm hearing on the street, we'll be losing a second publication by the end of July.
What this will mean for media companies following this model is their circulations will start to drop, but their revenue will start to climb... because they won't be dependent on advertising for revenue anymore. And the people reading the publication will be motivated to consume the content.
What this will mean for the PR world, is that practitioners will have to go back to the ethics of their business and point out crap when they see it and their clients are going to have to accept the definition. We're actually going to have to start delivering substance in our communications, not technical trivia.
People are going to scream bloody murder over this, but that's life, ain't it.