News Corp is seriously evaluating a move that would transform the digital news business.
Sources close to the company tell me that CEO Rupert Murdoch is considering creating a new purely digital news venture and would be available through subscription on devices like the iPad.
The news play under consideration would aim to redefine how news is consumed in the digital space with an entirely new interactive format. It would neither be a newspaper nor a web site and it would not be derivative of one of News Corp's existing papers. It would incorporate text, photo, and video, and it would be tailored for iTunes app format. The subject matter would be news for a national audience. Dow Jones' Wall Street Journal already has a popular subscription App; the subject matter of this venture would likely be more similar to the New York Post's populist tone.
If Murdoch decides to go forward with the idea, it would likely move quickly. Murdoch has a reputation for fast execution and he can draw from a deep bench of executives in both content and digital.
Just last week at Fortune's Brainstorm conference News Corp's Digital Chief Jon Miller said publicly that the likes of the iPad gives the media business a chance to "re-set" and "do over" -- i.e. charge for content after years of giving it away for free.
Bottom line: new gadgets and distribution platforms offer an opportunity to change consumer expectations that news should be free.
This digital news idea is right in line with the company's recent hiring and investment moves. In mid June News Corp acquired Skiff, an electronic reading platform. It also invested in Journalism Online, Steve Brill's venture dedicated to creating pay models for journalism content. The company also appointed Jon Housman, who had been a consultant on digital journalism strategies, President of News Corp's digital journalism initiatives. Houseman will report to Miller. Earlier this summer News Corp held a private conference in California, "News Corp App World," to educate senior execs about apps
News Corp has established a good relationship with Steve Jobs and Apple. While iTunes doesn't allow Time Inc to charge a subscription for its magazines, it not only allows the Wall Street Journal's subscription app, it also allows the Journal to bill customers directly.
If Murdoch pulls the trigger on this venture we could hear an announcement from the company within a month.
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