Murdoch Sees Going Free

It’s all but official: is going free. Rupert Murdoch himself said

as much today, at a Goldman Sachs conference in New York:

“We don’t mind what platform news appears on. We’re platform

neutral: newsprint, your Blackberry, your PC or whatever,” Murdoch said.

He also said that News Corp. was likely to get rid of subscriptions for the Web site in favor of a free model that would depend on advertising.

Tiernan Ray has Murdoch being slightly

more nuanced:

Goldman equity analyst Anthony Noto whether Dow Jones content should be free,

instead of subscription based.

“I don’t know, but that is on the front burner to decide,”

says Murdoch. “If the site is really good, you’d get, internationally,

not one million subscribers, but ten or fifteen million hits per day,”

said Murdoch. “And those are of the most valuable kind of readers in

the world.”

And Douglas McIntyre is doing

the math: has something along the lines of 2.5 unique visitors. Dow Jones estimates

put that number much higher. If the site were free, it is easy to see that

number racing past at about 13 million. NYT says all of its online

editions will do close to $400 million this year.

What would give up is 983,000 paid subscribers, most paying about

$80 a year.

Basically, there’s no way that can get to $400 million on a subscription

model: even if only half its revenues came from subscriptions, it would need

well over double the number of paying subscribers that it presently has. Whereas

the advertising model is compelling: ads should sell for significantly

higher CPMs than ads. As Murdoch says, his are the most valuable

readers in the world.

(Related: On my post

about going free, Eric comments that he uses adblock and customizegoogle

to ensure that he has no value at all to advertisers on the websites he visits.

He’s right that if a lot of others followed his lead, that would screw up the

economics of web-based publishing enormously. I doubt that will happen, unless

and until ads become so egregiously obtrusive that we readers are forced into

desperate measures. But any ad which ever covers up the story I’m trying to

read does count, in my book, as egregiously obtrusive, and no respectable publication

should accept such ads.)

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