Rupert Murdoch hails iPad as possible savior of struggling news industry

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Business,Science and Technology,Amy Seed

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, said he saw a glimpse of the future last weekend when he used the Apple iPad. "It's a wonderful thing," Murdoch marveled about the device, which unites all forms of media in a way that can enhance newspaper readership. 

Publications like Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal developed their own iPad app, giving readers access to online news. Similar to online editions, newspapers have the option of charging readers for its services. The Wall Street Journal charges $3.99 per week for access.  

“If you have less newspapers and more of these, that’s OK. It’ll be more economic. It may well be the saving of the newspaper industry,” said Murdoch.

Murdoch spoke at the National Press Club Tuesday as part of a series by Marvin Kalb on journalism and public policy. This particular episode focused on the success of Murdoch and what he sees as the future of journalism.

But while Murdoch praised the iPad for packaging news, many critics disagree. Mathew Ingram, a blogger for gigaom.com, thinks that while it is a much-desired invention, it's power to save traditional media is overstated. Newspapers can't depend on the iPad alone to save the industry, and Ingram noted that "newspapers and magazines still have to figure out what they have that is unique, different and special in a way that makes people want to pay for it."

He wrote that the iPod and iTunes have caused chaos for the music industry and speculated whether or not a similar pattern will be seen with the iPad and news. The Internet, he wrote, has already been doing this by exposing "how out of touch, out of control and cost-prohibitive most of it still is when it comes to doing business online."

Murdoch continued his push against search engines such as Google allowing readers free access to articles on subscription-only websites. Google, Murdoch noted, strips online content and allows people to read it for free if it is found through the search engine.

Murdoch suggested that stricter copyright enforcement is a solution as search engines take articles news sites at no benefit to the publication. Using the Wall Street Journal as his example, he said newspapers should stand up for themselves and protect their content.

“We’ll be very happy if they just publish our headline and maybe a sentence or two and that’s it. And, followed by a subscription for the Journal,” said Murdoch. 

But news organizations are reluctant to cut ties to seach engines as they serve as a valuable portal for their content across the web.

Daggle.com blogger Danny Sullivan defended Google by bringing up the several ways Google has actually helped newspapers. This included providing journalists with help researching stories through its search engine and sending more traffic to online news websites.

"Perhaps Google should charge publications whose reporters tap into the service to research their stories," Sullivan wrote.

Transforming newspapers into online media will not destroy journalism, said Murdoch, but it does provide news in a different form. A recent Nielsen survey showed that 85 percent of online readers prefer that web content remains free. 

Murdoch mentioned a method for working around this statistic. His solution for persuading readers to purchase online subscriptions was that the electronic edition of the Wall Street Journal, for example, is cheaper than buying the paper copy from a newsstand.

Social media websites are already changing the way people get news and are a good way to expand readership. Publications like the Huffington Post are pushing social media interaction through Twitter and Facebook accounts, which allow them to expand circulation of their news.

Murdoch argued that while the concept of social media is interesting, it alone will not transform the news industry.

“Social networks are an interesting phenomenon, but I don’t think they are changing the world,” he said.

The popularity of the Internet and devices like the iPad are something the media will have to work with in the future. While news websites currently offer content for free, Murdoch sees newspapers charging for online access as the future of journalism.

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