Murdoch's WSJ hints at charging for mobile reader

NEW YORK - Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is asking iPhone and Blackberry users if they would be willing to pay a subscription to access the mobile version of the Wall Street Journal, which is currently offered as a free application.

Murdoch, who earlier this year urged newspapers to begin charging for their online content, seems keen on introducing a micropayment scheme for mobile users as well.

The Wall Street Journal iPhone app was launched in April, free of charge, much to the chagrin of readers who pay the $100+ subscription fee to read the newspaper online.

However this week mobile users were asked to complete a survey through their phones, which asked "If full access to Mobile Reader required a paid subscription, how likely would you be to subscribe?".

The Wall Street Journal has not released the results of the survey, but from a historical perspective, it's online edition has over one million subscribers, and the iPhone app has been downloaded more than 300,000 times during the first three weeks of availability making it a hit among its tech savvy audience.

Recent iPhone software upgrades will streamline Murdoch's ultimate goal of a mobile micropayment scheme.

Previously, companies were only able to charge their users once for downloading an application.

But now with the 3.0 iPhone operating system, app creators can charge more than once, like a subscription or individual micropayments to access certain content.

Murdoch, in April when the app was released, said: "People are used to reading everything on the net for free, and that's going to have to change."

Murdoch said the Wall Street Journal will change its online subscription fee by the end of the year.

The new system will allow users to pay small amounts for individual articles and premium subscriptions to the website.

Last week, The New York Times said it plans to charge users to access its mobile edition, based on the success of the iPhone app.

Unlike the Wall Street Journal, New York Times articles are currently offered for free online.