Murdoch will charge for all online news

LONDON - Rupert Murdoch has said News Corporation will charge users to access its news websites, which include The Sun, The Times and Sky News, from 2010.

As well as his UK papers, a move to paid content for news would also include his US properties The New York Post and Fox News, as well as his The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and News.com.au in Australia.

He made the announcement yesterday as News Corp reported revenues of $30bn for the year.

If Murdoch moves ahead with plans to charge for The Sun and The Times he would be the first newspaper owner to do so.

If successful, the rest if the industry would quickly follow. Murdoch made his comments following reports that French daily newspaper Le Figaro would begin charging for premium online content next year.

Financial Times editor, Lionel Barber, has also said that the move towards paid content was inexorable. The FT and Murdoch's Wall Street Journal are the only two newspapers that currently charge for content.

Murdoch used the occasion of News Corp's results to reiterate his displeasure with the deal in place with Amazon.com and its Kindle e-reader device, which gives the online retailer sole access to subscriber detailers and the majority of the revenues.

Murdoch said: "It will eventually cause a break between us."

In April, Murdoch said News Corp was investing in a mobile newspaper reading device that would allow it to generate revenues, control data and effectively cut out Amazon.

Murdoch said News Corp was in discussion with Sony, which yesterday announced it was launching two low-cost digital book readers in the US. Sony's Reader Pocket Edition will cost $199, undercutting Amazon's Kindle by $100.

Murdoch predicted that if News Corp's plans to charge for online journalism worked it would be followed by other media.

He said that the success of The Wall Street Journal's subscription model, which has taken it beyond one million subscribers, had convinced him that consumers will pay for online news.

"We'll get a better share of the revenue, but it's not a big number, and we're not encouraging it at all," he said, noting that Amazon would keep information about subscribers to itself.

However, there was bad news on other digital fronts for Murdoch as News Corp reported $680m in write downs and other charges mostly related to MySpace, which has seen its value and popularity plummet in recent months.

The charges pushed News Corp down to a $203m loss for the three months to June 30, while its full-year results were in line with its forecast.

For the full year, News Corp reported operating income of $3.6bn, down from the record $5.3bn a year ago. Revenues were down 8% to $30bn, from $33bn last time.

Overall News Corp said it expected revenues to grow by 4% in 2010, while ad revenue would be flat.

Murdoch said: "I think the worst may be behind us but there are no clear signs yet of a fast economic recovery."

Murdoch also hinted at cost cutting saying the company could do more at businesses like The Times.

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