Murdoch delays plans for online payments

News Corp’s chief exec Rupert Murdoch has admitted that plans to begin charging for online news sites could be delayed.

Rupert Murdoch

In May, Murdoch had vowed to start charging for at least one of New Corp’s online news sites – which includes The Sun, The Times and The News of the World – by June 2010.

Quizzed on that target during a conference call to announce an 11 per cent rise in group net profit, Murdoch is reported to have said: “I wouldn’t promise that we are going to meet that deadline.”

This a long way from his line in May this year when, speaking after the last results of the 2009 fiscal year, Murdoch claimed that moves to add a paywall to news sites could begin “within the next 12 months”, adding that “the current days of internet will soon be over”.

Few organisations have successfully charged for web content, not least because there are always likely to be competitors who do not charge – the BBC for instance. However, Murdoch said the company was “working very hard” on the paywall system.

Another area of the business requiring similarly hard work is MySpace. Once the centrepiece of News Corp’s digital strategy and the site that brought social networking to the masses, the site is “still losing traffic”, according to chief operating officer, Chase Carey.

Some reports have suggested that Carey was even hinting at a major shift in strategy for the site, given the dominance of Facebook and Twitter. “We’re trying to create a unique experience,” he is reported to have said.

The decline in traffic for MySpace has also put a $900m deal with Google in jeopardy. Signed three years ago, the deal gave the search engine exclusive rights to put search advertising on MySpace – but it was based on a guaranteed level of traffic. Given that it hasn’t delivered, MySpace could now lose $100m on the deal.

The operating income at the UK newspaper arm of News Corp has slumped by $109m to $25m, which the company p[uts down to “lower advertising revenues”.

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