News Corp. Angling for Form Consortium for Paid Web News?

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A few months ago, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. made headlines by announcing it was planning to start charging users to read online versions of the company’s newspaper properties, by putting portions of its content behind so-called “paywalls” that could only be accessed by paid subscribers. Now, The Los Angeles Times reports that News Corp has been meeting with other news publishers with an eye towards forming a consortium to charge for online news access.

The idea behind the consortium is apparently to present a unified front across the news industry: if all major outlets were to start putting their digital content behind paywalls, the idea of trying to make up for declining advertising revenue from print editions might succeed. But if individual publishers try to go it alone, they may wind up undercutting each other’s efforts as users flock to sources that remain freely accessible. News Corp is apparently setting itself up to spearhead the group, based on its success with the subscription-only Wall Street Journal, which boasts about a million paid online subscribers. However, the Wall Street Journal and similar publications offer specialized information and financial data; industry watchers debate whether everyday consumers would be willing to pay for less specialized general-interest news.

News Corp is one of the world’s largest newspaper publishers, and owns the New York Post and the Times of London, along with dozens of papers in Australia.

According to the Los Angeles Times, others looking to find a way for newspapers to earn money via digital delivery include the Journalism Online initiative, Borders Books and and Webvan co-founder Louis Borders.