In keeping up with discussions about Google trying to improve its reputation with publishers by helping them erect pay walls, and Murdoch’s vehement dislike of the internet as a medium that is ‘stealing’ newspapers’ profits away, an debate is raging in the media-sphere keeping stakeholders on their toes about what they could expect the sector to do. Will Google’s pay walls actually help drive profits or will they simply drive readers to free news sites? Will Murdoch actually have any sway with publishers and get them to start charging for content? And finally, what solutions can we carve out for the sector as well as advertisers to survive?
Historically, advertisers have driven the industry. Advertiser investments enabled stories to be published and newspapers to be printed. When the internet became a sweepingly popular medium, they just shifted online. In South Africa, some hold the opinion that the newspaper industry has not been as heavily affected as those overseas because of expensive bandwidth and poor internet penetration. Therefore, local papers with a print and online version are doing ok, with online advertising supporting the survival of their print counterparts.
That’s the local scenario. On the international font, however, the picture is a little murky. Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp, and one of the largest news publishers, wants to charge for online content. Google is beginning to offer this option, but Murdoch is not considering it. He is allegedly in talks with Microsoft’s Bing to index news from his publications, and prevent Google from doing so. In order for him to be able to achieve the goal of getting users to pay, he needs consensus. But where does this leave the advertisers? In Murdoch’s world, where do they feature and wouldn’t this drastically change the existing and long-standing model?