Murdoch websites may charge

 

Newspaper websites owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation are likely to begin charging readers to use them within 12 months, he said.

The current business model, in which newspapers allow access to their content online without payment and seek revenue from advertising, was "malfunctioning", Mr Murdoch said in a conference call to launch the company's quarterly earnings.

The situation at the Wall Street Journalwebsite - owned by News Corporation and which runs a subscription service - indicated people would be prepared to pay to read newspapers online, he said.

In the UK, News Corporation owns the Sun, the Times, the Sunday Timesand the News of the World,and Mr Murdoch said the company was looking at starting to charge people to use some of their websites within the next 12 months.

"That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the (Wall Street) Journal's experience," he said.

"(Newspapers) are now in the midst of an epochal debate over the value of content and it is clear that for many newspapers the current model is malfunctioning."

In the space of three weeks, 350,000 people downloaded an iPhone application allowing them to read the Journal, he said, and they would soon be "paying handsomely" for the service.

Mr Murdoch said the company was at work finding new ways of making money out of established ventures.

"All our great technological resources are being concentrated on developing new business models which will return trusted journalistic enterprises to long term profitability," he said.

Mr Murdoch said he felt the worst of the economic crisis may have passed. He added: "I'm not an economist and we all know economists were created to make weathermen look good, but it's increasingly clear that the worst is over."

Meanwhile, the Guardian has played down speculation it might start charging readers after comments earlier in the week by CEO Carolyn McCall. Speaking at a conference, Ms McCall said there would be ¿some parts of our website - Media Guardian, specialist areas - where we should think about how we should charge for content.¿

But Head of Communications at the Guardian Media Group, Chris Wade, was quoted on the Editors¿ Weblog denying any charging was imminent at the GMG.

¿Guardian.co.uk is not reviewing its approach and has no plans to charge for content on any part of the site", he said. He added that Ms McCall "wasn't ruling anything out in the future" but that there are no immediate plans.