Rupert Murdoch is prepared to stop Google taking News Corp content for nothing. The tycoon hails iPad as a potential saviour of newspapers, but says the industry must stand up for itself and charge for content.
Murdoch renewed his attacks on search engines, such as Google, whom he accused of stealing journalism from traditional media outlets. He told a US National Press Club event at George Washington University the newspaper industry had to stand up for itself and charge for content while using copyright law to defend its journalism from being used without its permission.
“We are going to stop people like Google or Microsoft or whoever from taking stories for nothing... there is a law of copyright and they recognise it,” Mr. Murdoch told a packed audience of students, journalists and other media professionals.
He said search engines had tapped into a “river of gold” by aggregating content but that the days of free news had to come to an end. “They take [news content] for nothing. They have got this very clever business model,” he said.
In June, online versions of Mr. Murdoch’s British titles the Times and Sunday Times will be put behind a paywall, joining the online version of his business title, the Wall Street Journal, which already operates one.
However, some critics say consumers are now too used to getting online news for free and will not pay subscriptions in big enough numbers to form a viable business model for quality journalism. Mr. Murdoch dismissed this fear saying consumers could be forced to change their habits. “When they have got nowhere else to go they will start paying. If it is reasonable. No one is going to ask for a lot of money,” he said.
Mr. Murdoch also fired a shot at the New York Times — a common bete noire of Mr. Murdoch’s and the Journal’s main rival — by saying the New York Times’ own paywall plans were half—hearted and needed to be more restrictive.
“They don’t seem to be able to make up their mind. They will have opposition internally from some of their journalists, especially their columnists,” he said. “To really make it work they have got to put a paywall up. I think most newspapers in [the US] have got to have a paywall.” Advocates of free newspaper websites often accuse Mr. Murdoch of being a technophobe, but the Australian media mogul was happy to embrace the technology of Apple’s iPad tablet device, launched last Saturday (3APRIL).
During the rare interview, with journalist Marvin Kalb, he sat with an iPad and even picked it up to demonstrate how to navigate the WSJ’s website. He said the iPad could be the saviour of newspaper journalism, albeit in electronic form, not print.
“I got a glimpse of the future last weekend with the Apple iPad. It is a wonderful thing,” he said. “If you have less newspapers and more of these... it may well be the saving of the newspaper industry.” Mr. Murdoch was also given a grilling in the interview — and by many in the audience — over the conservative bias of his Fox News cable television channel. The audience regularly tittered when Mr. Murdoch said he thought the channel had no political bias in its news coverage. “We have both sides. We have Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians and whatever,” he said.
However, when asked to name a single Democrat—leaning Fox commentator — alongside such famous conservative names as Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly — he struggled openly to remember one. “I wish I could tell you a couple of names. But they are certainly there,” he said. He eventually settled on the Fox host Greta van Susteren, whom he said was “close” to the Democratic Party.