Rupert Murdoch was cosying up to Apple again yesterday (3AUG) as he spoke at a media debate in Sydney, saying tablets are “a perfect platform” for cheap, convenient and up-to-date News Corp content.

News Corp has “tens of thousands of readers” through apps for the Wall Street Journal, the London Times and the Australian, he said, and then added that Apple will sell many more iPads than predicted.

“It looks like they will sell around 15 million iPads this calendar year and more than 40m by 2012. And the iPad is just one of many tablet or slate computers in the pipeline. News Corp fully intends to be across all those platforms too.”

Without giving any precise figures, he insisted subscriber levels for the newly paywalled Times and Sunday Times websites are strong and described the strategy as “the start of a new business model for the internet”. “The argument that information wants to be free is only said by those who want it for free,” said Mr. Murdoch.

Mr. Murdoch loves the iPad because it is a walled garden - arguably the exception, rather than the rule, in selling paid content. It also has a wealthy user base well suited to News Corp’s quality news titles, but is still a niche product.

Whether the London Times paywall gamble pays off is far less certain. Charging a subscription to access website content isn’t a new business model, but pulling it off on a mainstream news site would be quite something.

The Times will want its decision vindicated, and quickly, and the numbers probably will add up in the short term. But in the long term, the thing that will be harder to calculate is the cost of losing much of its voice in the international, online news market.

Copyright: Guardian News & Media 2010