Monday, December 28, 2009

Adding Fees and Fences on Media Sites

Over more than a decade, consumers became accustomed to the sweet, steady flow of free news, pictures, videos and music on the Internet. Paying was for suckers and old fogeys. Content, like wild horses, wanted to be free.

Now, however, there are growing signs that this free ride is drawing to a close.

Newspapers, including this one, are weighing whether to ask online readers to pay for at least some of what they offer, as a handful of papers, like The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times, already do. Indeed, in the next several weeks, industry executives and analysts expect some publications to take the plunge.

Rupert Murdoch, beyond charging for access to The Journal, has talked about forming a partnership with a single search engine, which would pay him for the rights to scour the news and entertainment programming produced by his company, the News Corporation, rather than letting all search engines crawl his sites. Also Hulu, which is owned partly by Mr. Murdoch’s company, is considering charging viewers to watch some of the TV shows it now streams free.

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