News International hints at online charging model

Times Online and The are set to start charging for content after News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch indicated such a model could be in place within a year.

Yesterday News Corp, parent company of UK newspaper group News International, recorded a decline in revenues to $7.37bn (£4.89bn) for the first three months of the year compared to $8.75bn (£5.80bn) a year ago.

Profits from its newspapers were down drastically year-on-year from $216m (£118.58m) to $7m (£3.84m), with UK newspaper ad revenues down 21%.

The company also reported a loss in operating income to $755m (£501m) from $1.4bn (£929m) the year before.

In a conference call to reporters Murdoch said yesterday that the publisher is seriously examining the paid-for model, and is “absolutely looking at” charging for online content for British papers such as The Times, News of the World and The Sun.

The move away from free content could start within the next 12 months‚ he added.

Most of the content on News Corp’s international daily paper The Wall Street Journal is only available to subscribers.

Murdoch’s comments follow Guardian Media Group’s CEO Carolyn McCall saying on Tuesday that the publisher is considering charging for access to specialist parts of the site such as Media Guardian ( 5 May 2009).

News International rivals’ Independent News & Media and Bauer are reportedly considering moving to a paid-for model, however publishers such as Mail Online, Future and Trinity Mirror have said they will remain subscription-free

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