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Columbia Missourian

Murdoch says it's time to put a price on digital news

By Tom Warhover
August 7, 2009 | 1:02 p.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

Will you pay for news on ColumbiaMissourian.com?

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Don’t worry. You won’t have to make that choice any time soon.

In the next year, though, you'll face the question on many news sites. Rupert Murdoch has spoken: By next summer, his news outlets will charge for you to read them online.

Murdoch’s News Corp. owns the Times of London, The Wall Street Journal and dozens more newspapers around the globe. He owns magazines. He owns Fox News. He owns — well, you get the point.

"Quality journalism is not cheap," Murdoch said this week, according to the Manchester Guardian newspaper in England. "The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels, but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news Web sites."

You’ll pay for some of the articles on The Wall Street Journal right now. It’s not just the national papers. You need look no further than Jefferson City to find examples of news sites that charge.

The News Tribune site offers short versions of articles for free. So you could read four paragraphs about the alligator found hiding under Adam Horn’s family car Wednesday morning, followed by this: “To view the entire article, please go to our e-edition.” There, you’ll find instructions on how to subscribe.

The News Tribune is owned by another company, Wehco Media, which believes news organizations can’t afford to keep giving away content.

There’s plenty of criticism to the pay-for-content movement, mainly in the form of “Will people really pay for something they expect for free?”

I won’t need to speculate or predict the answer. It looks like we’re going to find out soon enough.

Want other options? Mortimer Zuckerman, editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report, has the answer. He wants Congress to allow sports betting on newspaper Web sites.

Really.

“That would save every newspaper in America,” he told forbes.com.

So place your bets, dear reader.

Odds are we’ll find a way to keep quality journalism in this country in ways we haven’t yet imagined.

Tom