How Much Would You Pay for Internet News?

In addition to the Wall Street Journal, he pointed out that Consumer Reports and ESPN offer paid content online, but their approaches are not the same. Visitors to Web sites for each of the publications will notice that some content is available for anyone, while other content is for subscribers only. But the balance of free and paid content differs for each.

Analyst: WSJ.com Is a Unique Case

Still others doubt paid content will take over the Web.

"I think the unfortunate nature of the model is that, realistically, I think it's very, very unlikely that all online news will switch to a pay for model," said Jon Gibs, vice president of media analytics for media research firm The Nielsen Company.

Gibs said Murdoch is basing his long-term strategy on the success of the Wall Street Journal and the needs of online news businesses to drive more revenue. "But the problem with that is that the Wall Street Journal online has held a unique place in the online news industry," he said.

Not only is the content fairly unique, individuals often have their companies pay for them to access the content and it's historically been a pay service.

For the most part, he continued, news is a commodity and unless the Web sites can differentiate and create an added incentive for users to choose one site over another, it will be hard for them to succeed.

Paid Content Not Ultimate Answer to Financial Woes

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, said he agreed with Murdoch's assessment of the economics of the Web, but added that even a successful paid content model might not solve the problem.

"In print, news producers only make 20 percent [of their revenue] from subscriptions and 80 percent from advertisers," he said, emphasizing that the advertising dollars aren't migrating to the Web.

Charging for content is a beginning, but it's not the ultimate solution, he said.

News sites need to expand their options even further, he said, and look at ways to marry e-commerce and services with editorial content.

For example, he said, if a local news site could help a user not only search for a pair of shoes but also host the transaction, it could potentially collect a fee from that service.

Still, he said, Murdoch's comment, coming from such a high-profile company, might have inspired a bit of gratitude from news executives eyeing paid options themselves.

"Almost everyone in the news industry wants another bite at this," he said. "Having that conversation out loud, having people talk about it ... all of that will help test the waters, develop experiments, [and] get people thinking."

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