Rupert Murdoch: You call it free news, I call you ‘kleptomaniac’

October 9, 2009

Lest anyone doubt the thrust of Rupert Murdoch’s speech on Thursday (or was it Friday? I’m losing track of time zones) at the World Media Summit in Beijing, it was all about paying for news — as in: You’re going to pay for news, and if you think it shouldn’t cost you anything, you’re a “flat-earther” and a “kleptomaniac.”

For those of you accustomed to the News Corp CEO’s occasional verbal ramblings and hints of ghosts of suggestions, this was a departure. He has gone on the record in great detail about his thoughts regarding paid news, but this is the first time that I recall him using fightin’ words like “flat-earther.”

Murdoch also “urged the Chinese government to take full advantage of the country’s creative potential by opening the door to media competition and ensuring that intellectual property is protected,” according to the speech and the press release, but let’s be clear — the message that resonated was: “You’re going to pay for news as long as we need to pay people to report it.”

Here’s the Reuters take, “leding” on China.

The New York Times’s David Carr throws in some similar comments from the head of The Associated Press, and says that it and News Corp are “cocking the gun” on free news. Pungent!

And here is the AP’s take on its own story.

Finally, here’s the speech itself. There’s plenty to digest.

Rupert Murdochs Speech at the World Media Summit

(Reuters Photo: Rupert Murdoch on the left, China’s president Hu Jintao on the right. Behind them is David Schlesinger, who runs Reuters News)

19 comments

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[...] Rupert Murdoch goes out and says that free news is the same as kleptomania and I’m starting to wonder if the world has run away from the old man. Of course journalists should get payed for their work and that work is much appreciated but the way to make money nowadays is NOT to impose some sort of direct payment requirement on the readers. The newspapers have to, like movies and music, undergo a serious makeover to fit in the modern society. The modern society is massively interconnected and information gets pretty much everywhere in no time at all. What distributors of material desired by the public need to do is to change their business plans to adhere to this new order and not try to backtrack to a place where they feel safe. The world is evolving and so should you. [...]

[...] FROM BEIJING: Sky TV, BBC, BNet, NY Times, China View, The Independent, Reuters, Tech Crunch, Buzz Machine, Village Voice, Search Engine Land, prepared text of Murdoch [...]

Some thoughts from an old dog in journalism:

In the traditional business model, display advertising paid nearly all the cost of producing a newspaper, including wages, facilities, equipment and supplies. Subscription or newsstand prices covered the cost of distributing the product to the consumer. Profit was in classified advertising.

So as a newspaper model, it seems reasonable to assume the cost of the actual delivery mechanism (i.e., the web server) might be borne by the consumer, but that’s about it. Reporters, editors, photographers, design people and Rupert himself are paid from advertising we as consumers must endure to get news at a relatively low cost.

But if Murdoch looks at broadcast television, he’ll see every consumer gets the news for free… and must contend with commercials as “payment.”

How much consumers are willing to tolerate on payment, log-ins, on-page advertising will be reflected in the hits (i.e., paid circulation or ratings). However, if Murdoch insists we pay for his product, it might just backfire: we’d probably demand more quality.

So which model is it? Fox News or The Wall Street Journal? Either way, I don’t think we consumers would expect to pay very much, if at all.

Posted by Geoff | Report as abusive

i call murdoch a delusional grandpa who doesn’t seem to get where he lives.
pay for news? ha ha ha

Posted by yr | Report as abusive

Who wants or would pay for Rupert’s “news” anyway. I’m sick of FOX.

Posted by CrashJammer | Report as abusive

Since businesses equate paid content with premium content, I should expect more than just paying, right?

If I paid, I would ask three things:
(1) Fair, objective, neutral news report.
(2) No Ad, no product placement. Basically, free of any ads.
(3) Professional journalists dedicated to write news for premium content subscribers only.

Posted by Pope 1+1 | Report as abusive

Mr. Murdoc has apparently chosen to take the path of the media industry groups such as RIAA and MPAA. Fairly soon, I expect that there will be a group of lawyers representing his news networks. If you are a blogger and you use pictures or text from his sites, your ISP will get a DMCA take-down notice and they may demand money from you and threaten a lawsuit.
On the business side, it doesn’t seem he’s added it up correctly.
From watching the RIAA and MPAA for awhile, I would say that their customers are definitely not seeing increased profits as a result of their actions, but that most likely it has backfired and they are getting less. The only ones who truly benefit are the law firms.
I think Rupert Murdoc is a bitter man, in demanding constantly more, he’s set into motion his own downfall.

Posted by J Johnson | Report as abusive

Look on the bright side. Since Mr Murdoch’s claim to be able to deliver general election victory to the party of his choice is predicated on the estimate that only one in three Sun readers actually buys the paper – in future, only one third as many people will read his papers, and we will at least be spared this tiresome boast.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

As soon as Murdoch provides news, I’ll provide payment.

Sounds like a bit of the spoiled child. Kleptomania, i.e. he wants your revenue, and you give it to his competition.

Posted by Line Shot | Report as abusive

Mr Murdoch,

You are disconnected with the “new”(not so new at all) Internet reality.
The information is free and fast flowing. You can charge all your numerous newspapers and people will simply stop logging in on them and you’ll be facing the inevitable reality: stop charging or else.
It’s just a matter of time to bring you to the planet again and you’ll become a round-Earther.

Posted by Jorge Brown Segui | Report as abusive

people wont pay for news. people have other ways to get it… the internet will have sites that will give it for free. ofcourse in canada they are talking about having to pay a subscription fee for every website that you want to see to your isp.. so the internet would be like the cable and satalite tv providers. if you want cnn.com, foxnews.com and so on then you need the news package for $x.xx per month on top of the monthly usage you are allowed to upload and download lets say 10gigs download per month and 5gb upload per month….

Murdoch has to blame himself if his business in decline.
Just like so many other media as well. And so far he and
the others are lucky that for instance the video with
Peter Schiff and other financial experts forecasting and
commenting in 06/ 07 is only known to just 1,5 million.
Its a video that adds serious weight to the article and
could lead to really interesting debates, some real
challenges for the media guys:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I0QN-FYk pw

Posted by JF | Report as abusive

Since when did cart get put in front of the HORSE,donkey,and or ass?
These mega corporations have a inane sense of self like what have i done in the world today and you owe me for it attitude. This is selfishness to an extreme that is symptmatic of the corupt world we live in.
1st news should be concise, exact, and nonbiased let the facts stand on their own merit.
2nd news should be free
3rd news should be something the people want and seek out should they have the desire to hear,read, and or listen to it.

then in that case the producer of said new can monetize it with commercials,products, and or anything they deem as long as it is tasteful,moral,appropriate.

that being said the Quote come to mind;”if you build it they will come” comes to mind….

Posted by zippy | Report as abusive

It would be news if Rupert Murdoch learned to keep his big trap shut.

Kleptomania? Sounds like a clinical condition. To be fair and balanced, though, the relationship between FoxNews and those who buy into it should correctly be referred to as Sado-Masochism.

Posted by The Bell | Report as abusive

Rupert Murdoch IS the portrait in Dorian Grey’s attic! I’d be more inclined to pay for his propaganda to be concealed from public view!

Posted by Unemployed | Report as abusive

I guess this means that the sky news channels will be taken off of freeview… otherwise it would surely be offering free content and cannibalising news corp’s market. Honestly, this model is ridiculous. News is a mandated service (in the UK at least), it’s the responsibility of governments to ensure that people have free access to news.

Posted by boredofnewscorp | Report as abusive

Murdoch need to learn not to bite the hand that feeds him. there is no doubt in my mind that people will pay for news. Just as there is no doubt in my mind that people will pay for Murdochs news… AT the same time, does he reall need to be such a prick about the whole thing, The world is coming off a recession, and he is acting like people are defaulting on their Wall Street Journal Subscriptions.

One area that Murdoch plans on adding charges to is WSJ’s I-Phone application. I do not consider this to be a mistake on his part, but it may be a premature addition. I have an I-Phone, and I have the WSJ, NY Times, NY Post, Bloomberg, and Reuters applications (FREE as of this morning). If the Wall Street Journal is going to make the jump to charging their customers, for such a product, they damn well better make sure their product is the best.

Posted by Matt | Report as abusive

Borderless world? He’s making news cost money that some people might not want to pay, or might not be ABLE to pay. He’s putting up his own borders; the irony…

Posted by Saquel | Report as abusive

Free Reporting.

If I wasn’t so busy, I’d start a website where:

Users report news,
users validate news,
users disseminate validated news.

For free.

(Someone take this hint.)

Michael Steven Scott
aka Cat Springs

Murdoch would prefer that there be no news at all. That way he, and his band of thieves, could make corporate dominance of our economy and our government complete. Murdoch hates a free and unbiased press. He doesn’t want anything to expose his corporate dealings. We need a free and independent press, paid for by taxpayers and not owned by any corporate media giant or political party.

Posted by Edward Camuffo | Report as abusive

[...] study busts the myth that aggregators like Google News are fuelling the culture of “content kleptomania”. It turns out that only 10 per cent of readers rely on aggregators to point them to news [...]

[...] study busts the myth that aggregators like Google News are fuelling the culture of “content kleptomania”. It turns out that only 10 per cent of readers rely on aggregators to point them to news [...]