News Corporation will begin charging readers of online versions of its various publications from next year in a move that chairman Rupert Murdoch hopes will spur other publishers to shift away from free news content on the internet.
Murdoch broke the news after the global media giant reported that it ended its business year with a net loss of $3.4 billion due to hefty charges of $9.2 billion. The sprawling US media empire had posted a net profit of $5.4 billion a year earlier.
"We have a lot to do and we have to face the challenges of free-to-web television and digital newspapers," Murdoch said during a midweek conference call with analysts and reporters. "We are very hopeful that we can produce significant revenues from the sale of digital delivery of newspapers."
Murdoch acknowledged that there is nothing to stop online readers from switching to websites where stories are accessible for free, but the chief executive said he believes the competition will follow his company's lead. "We just have to make our content better and differentiate it from other people," he said. "I believe if we are successful we will be followed by other media."
The number of website hits triggered by celebrity scoops posted online by News Corp is "astronomical," said Murdoch, who added he thinks people will be "happy" to pay for such stories.
Online income for newspapers has failed to offset plunges in revenue from advertising in print publications, pressuring the industry to break from the free-story model that has been the Internet norm.