Pay Up

Rupert Murdoch's Consortium Dream

Rupert Murdoch is trying to turn back the much-heralded demise of newspapers. Over the last couple weeks, News Corp. executives have met with major news publishers, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Hearst, and Tribune in hopes of forming a consortium that would charge for news on the web and on portable devices, according to the Los Angeles Times. Skeptical analysts have pointed out that papers with successful pay walls such as The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times cater to traders, who require timely information about business, so it's unclear whether people will be willing to pay for general interest sports, entertainment, or local news. New media consultant Alan D. Mutter suggested that instead of a conventional pay wall, the consortium look at unifying user registration across many news sites and tracking the stories each user reads. That information could be married to geographic and demographic data and sold to advertisers. But neither pay walls nor unified registration can eliminate the obvious threat: the consortium will probably attract antitrust scrutiny for federal regulators.