Rupert Murdoch Calls for the iPad to Kill Paper-and-Ink Newspapers

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Rupert Murdoch's banging his "Google is a thief!" drum again in an interview at a National Press Club event. Then he praised the iPad. Then things got really freaky. Murdoch, News King, would like the physical newspaper to die.

The only unifying take-away from the scattered talk was that Rupert Murdoch will support any media he can bend to fit his mission and bottom line—and vow to exterminate the others.

Speaking at the event at George Washington University, in front of a crowd of news media professionals and students, Murdoch couldn't resist underlining his theory that Google, and other search engines, have been rising the back of the "real" news media by acting as aggregators. Murdoch's stance is that Google and its ilk are breaking copyright and outright stealing the news, despite the fact that when they preview a story from a News Corp. publication they offer hyperlinks that send readers to the full article at the original source: This results in page views that drive advertising revenues directly into Murdoch's pockets.

Still, Murdoch won't be swayed, and he underlined his plans to erect paywalls around his news content, and to bar "people like Google or Microsoft or whoever from taking stories for nothing" by forbidding their Net crawler tech from accessing it. He even took a stab (with a dirty knife between the shoulder blades) at competitor New York Times' efforts at erecting a paywall, snubbing it as half-hearted and that the management doesn't "seem able to make up its mind" on the matter. His final outburst, which betrays his real agenda as a money-grabber who cares not a jot for what the consumer wants, or even the traditions of a free press, is that, although the consumer has become used to getting online news content for free, they'll be forced to change soon. Forced, folks...forced. Because when Murdoch (and others) haul up their paywalls, then the consumer will have "nowhere else to go" and "they will start paying." What about the notion, Rupe, that the consumer will, at the mere effort of a couple more clicks of the mouse, seek their news elsewhere entirely? There will always be free news, you see.

Apple iPadBut though you may now be picturing Rupert as an aging, leathered, bitter proponent of his own old agenda, foaming with evil enthusiasm like Dalek-creator Davros from Doctor Who (look it up, non-Whovians—it's a precious TV gem), Murdoch had one more surprising thing to say. Referencing, again, his admiration for Apple's iPad, which is a "glimpse of the future," he all but called for the end of the physical paper and ink newspaper. In fact he noted, "If you have less newspapers and more of these [iPads] ... it may well be the saving of the newspaper industry." This is an amazing insight into Murdoch's thinking. He really thinks, like many other commenters, that the iPad could save the newspaper industry. And he's not at all afraid of technology, as long as it can be bent to his agenda: A paid iPad app with subscription access and all the protection of Apple's locked-down iTunes distribution system lines up sweetly with Murdoch's vision for the future of newsprint.

We like tech, so this is actually a positive sign. There're also a couple of environmental pluses there, of course, with decreased burden on paper production (and its attendant use of strong chemicals) and all the carbon footprint implications of distributing physical newspapers around the world. But we can't quite let ourselves be overly enthusiastic at Murdoch's new stance on the future of news...we just don't know where he'll point his laser pistol next, with a cry of "exterminate!"

Image credits: Reuters, BBC

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12 Comments

  • Blake Elias

    Having each subscription in a self-contained, proprietary iPad app would make it less useful. This says that Murdoch simply doesn't understand the potential of technology, and is not keeping up with how people get news these days, so how can he possibly have the answer to an issue like this?

    Right now, readers have countless options in terms of devices, RSS readers, email alerts, social media, and mashup tools like Yahoo Pipes. This allows people to personalize their news, and customize/prioritize to their needs. Does Murdoch have the experience with these technologies to see how an iPad-based model would affect them?

    You can say goodbye to all of that if news subscriptions get confined to standalone iPad apps. It would be a much less customizable experience, so subscribers would essentially have to pay more to get less.

  • F. Penfield

    Sir Rupert is absolutely correct...

    Google's theory of totally personalized advertising is that it is no longer perceived as "advertising", but
    As valuable content to the user. Ergo, Google _is_ a content company.

    For Google to steal another companies Content for the sole purpose of selling their own content, is just outright theft.

    What everyone seems to overlook is that once quality reporting and content are behind a pay wall, it's Rupert's sole decision as to subscription price. I won't pay $17 a month for the New York Times, but I will certainly pay 3$ a month.
    All that's needed is for Rup to find the public's 'strike price' and the game changes forever. Any income at all..ANY..is pure gravy when your incremental costs are essentially zero.

    Once other publishers figure this out and see Mudoch's revenues growing, they'll have no choice but to follow suit.

    There are some minor problems that need to be addressed with this model, but I'm sure Mr. Jobs is already working on them.

  • Ashton Gebhard

    The proliferation of free online journalism has caused an expansion of tabloid-style reporting. This is very sad since it means news providers are practicing hack journalism in order to drive online hits (or clicks or impressions or whatever measure you care to use) rather than high quality, hard won journalistic presentations of the truth. I think part of the cause of this is that margins are higher on low brow speculation pieces that anyone could write rather than the work of a high paid professional reporter. The sad thing is that the result will be high quality journalism for the wealthiest people who can afford it, and the less affluent will be swept away in a flood of ignorance without even realizing their fate!

  • Richard Geller

    Actually, he's right—more or less. the paper-part will need to disappear eventually. And, boys and girls, if you want honest-to-god news with properly-trained, experienced journalists and editors reporting it, you're going to have to pay for them, sorry. That said, we may need this generation of C levels to die off, before we get people in power who have more than a hint of a clue. Some publications may need to die, so that people with a passion for the news start new online news communities with a different business model, whose value proposition is good enough that people are willing to pay to participate.

    Once a magazine or newspaper goes online, it is neither a magazine or a newspaper anymore. I'm no longer purchasing a manufactured physical thing. What it becomes instead is "a community of interest," and it is now two-way communication, not a broadcast. It needs to build and engage its community of interest (support) by encouraging active participation as Fast Company does, by allowing community members to sign their words and place their URL at the bottom of their remarks. This has real value for both parties. Why Fast Company does not charge to be a member of this community is a mystery I can only explain by assuming its C level does not or cannot see that Fast Company online is not a magazine but a community. I don't know why they think advertisers should pick up the whole tab. But then again, they don't talk with us about it. And that's a shame, because the real conversation should be, "what's it worth to you to be a part of this community?'

    --
    Richard Geller
    http://www.aSiteAboutSomething...

  • Whys Alives

    End print with emitted-light? Surely Murdoch owns a spectacles company. :)

  • Paul Viel

    Rupert Murdoch has a point but not a valid one, in my opinion. News aggregation is only a part of what Google, Yahoo and other search engines do for the public.

    Control of information is not, again in my opinion, is not the mission of the news business. The mission of the news business is the sharing of information for the public good. Sure, they need to make a profit any business does.

    For the news business to prosper they need to be factual, fast and flexible. Rupert fails on two of the three. When and if Murdoch and other news media understand the world is changing and their place in the world is the truth in information business. The world is changing in it's ability to communicate rapidly.

    Too bad the news business can't find a workable model for gathering and passing on the news that doesn't include bias, slant and complaint or expects us all to be happy with the drivel and unsubstantiated stories.

    Give me a break - I want newspapers and TV news to succeed but they must first be at least as accurate and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

  • Paul Viel

    Rupert Murdoch has a point but not a valid one, in my opinion. News aggregation is only a part of what Google, Yahoo and other search engines do for the public.

    Control of information is not, again in my opinion, is not the mission of the news business. The mission of the news business is the sharing of information for the public good. Sure, they need to make a profit any business does.

    For the news business to prosper they need to be factual, fast and flexible. Rupert fails on two of the three. When and if Murdoch and other news media understand the world is changing and their place in the world is the truth in information business. The world is changing in it's ability to communicate rapidly.

    Too bad the news business can't find a workable model for gathering and passing on the news that doesn't include bias, slant and complaint or expects us all to be happy with the drivel and unsubstantiated stories.

    Give me a break - I want newspapers and TV news to succeed but they must first be at least as accurate and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    @Laurent, insightful. @Cameron, what's the difference between control and distribution?

    --
    @ferenstein

  • Cameron Cress

    Murdoch's thinking will kill the newspaper industry. Its not about control anymore, its about distribution.

  • Laurent Poulain

    What really bothers Murdoch is that, with news aggregators, he lost control. The issue here is not "theft" but a matter of control.

    Before news aggregators, News Corp controlled its image as well as what was presented to the reader.

    With Google News, News Corp lost this control. It's Google who decides what newspapers are presented to the reader, and News Corp marketing machine has no influence whatsoever. It's also Google who decides what articles are on the front page and not the WSJ editors.

    The iPad looks ideal for Murdoch because Apple considers the device as an end in itself. Murdoch probably thinks Apple is more likely to let them do what they want. And I'm sure Steve Jobs was very persuasive - he can be very charming when he wants. Except that, in the music business, Steve ended up dictating some choices.

  • Nikko Ambroselli

    Murdoch's incoherent babbling translates to one thing: he doesn't understand. Because of this, he is doomed to certain failure. His ideas of copyright is dated and inapplicable - yet he persistently falls back to it as the common problem for his failing business model.

    He markets the news. He cares nothing about the efficiencies of the people but caters only to his personal agenda.... although cant hate a man for having a plan.

  • Paul Viel

    Rupert Murdoch has a point but not a valid one, in my opinion. News aggregation is only a part of what Google, Yahoo and other search engines do for the public.

    Control of information is not, again in my opinion, is not the mission of the news business. The mission of the news business is the sharing of information for the public good. Sure, they need to make a profit any business does.

    For the news business to prosper they need to be factual, fast and flexible. Rupert fails on two of the three. When and if Murdoch and other news media understand the world is changing and their place in the world is the truth in information business. The world is changing in it's ability to communicate rapidly.

    Too bad the news business can't find a workable model for gathering and passing on the news that doesn't include bias, slant and complaint or expects us all to be happy with the drivel and unsubstantiated stories.

    Give me a break - I want newspapers and TV news to succeed but they must first be at least as accurate and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.