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Murdoch’s “Digital Newsstand” Alesia Closing Up Shop

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is ditching an idea one year and $31.5 million in the making: an online newsstand that would have bundled online subscriptions to newspapers and magazine. “Project Alesia,” as it was called, is being abandoned for lack of interest among the publishers News Corp. had pitched.

Reuters’ source says that Alesia is just on hold, but MediaWeek claims the decision is absolute: “an entire, dedicated News Corp U.K. operation being dismantled just days before a product was due to go on market.” Over a hundred people were working on the project; most have been reassigned elsewhere.

What went awry? News Corp. it appears, just couldn’t rustle up enough interest with major publishers. One publisher called the News Corp. pitch “lame,” says Reuters. Publishers also didn’t like the idea of ceding control of some of their users’ data. Even with tens of millions of dollars invested, the Alesia team got cold feet and decided to back down.

Murdoch, like many others in publishing, has been concerned with the problem of charging for content online. News Corp. bought Skiff, an e-reading platform created by the Hearst Corporation, and invested in Journalism Online, a start-up specializing in helping publications charge for online access, just this past June.

[Image: World Economic Forum]

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