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September 18, 2009

Google boss: Paid-for online news won’t work Rupert

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt has poured cold water on News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch’s plan to charge for access to content on the newspaper websites of his News Corporation empire.

Schmidt said it was unlikely that a paywall model on general news websites would prosper because of the ubiquity of alternative news sources.

Murdoch announced earlier this year that he intended to charge for access to all his newspaper websites – which include sites for the Sun, News of the World, Times and Sunday Times in the UK – by the end of next year.

During a Q&A session last night at the RTS Convention in Cambridge, Schmidt – who was appearing over a video link from New York – was asked for his opinion on Murdoch’s global call to restrict access to his newspaper websites to paying customers.

Schmidt said: “As you all know a couple of the properities that News Corp produces, including the Wall Street Journal, are already behind a pay wall and that is a model that worked for them. In general these models have not worked for general public consumption.

“There are enough free sources that the marginal value of paying is not justified based on the incremental value of the quality available.”

Schmidt said he expected that paywalls could work in niche and specialist markets as the alternative sources were not so readily available and that Google would try to make their content searchable.

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“I think it’s unlikely that you will be able to do it for all kinds of news, there is simply too many news sources there are too many ways of getting news with advertising supported models to support a paywall model.”

During a conference call to discuss News Corporation’s third quarter results in May, Murdoch said the company was “absolutely” looking at charging people to read his UK national newspapers online.

The Sunday Times has begun recruiting journalists and online developers ahead of the launch of its own stand-alone website which will launch later in the year.

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