Boston Globe to charge for online content; Sony fineses Kindle; Gannett daily fires everyone

Performing a cashectomy on digital consumers
New Corp promises to do the same within a year

By Walter Brooks

"It's going to happen one way or another. We are looking at several different options, and the goal would be to generate revenue."
-Globe spokesman Bob Powers

The Globe's internet site, Boston.com, will soon require a price for admission according to several newspaper insiders who have emailed me this week.

The Boston Herald and other newspapers reported much the same last Friday.

Globe executives have already informed union leaders of the plan and a Globe spokesman confirmed there will be some sort of fee for using the site. No details have been provided to date.

The news came shortly after Rupert Murdoch said that his News Corp. (which includes the Ottaway Newspapers's Cape Cod Times, Barnstable Patriot, Nantucket Inquirer & Mirror and the New Bedford Standard-Times) will soon charge for access to all its news sites as has it's flagship newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, has since its launch.


"We intend to charge for all our news Web sites." - Murdoch.

Media critic David Carr's column this week in the New York Times went to great lengths to dissect the Murdoch plan:

The man who took over newspapering in Australia and Britain, and upended the cable news business here, planted a new flag last week, pronouncing that, contrary to popular reports, information does not want to be free; it actually wants to be paid for.

"Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting," he said. "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."

With characteristic confidence, he added that "I believe that if we are successful, we will be followed by other media." Yes, perhaps when the change takes place over the coming fiscal year, he will be greeted by the sound of hearty applause from his fellow media companies.

Or he may just hear crickets chirping.

Certainly he is not alone. Many news organizations are wondering how to delicately perform some kind of cashectomy on digital consumers. The pay wall idea is neither new nor untried. Just last Monday, The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y., moved behind a wall... NY Times.

Rupert who?

While no media person will deny Rupert Murdoch's business acumen and huges successes, he is an old man who has admitted that he browsed the internet for the first time in the past year.

That is far from the formula for success on the web. He is 78 year old, and reportedly listening to the advice of the same folks who brought you really lousy websites like the NY Post which is so frustrating it must have been designed to push the consumer back toward print.

David Carr ends his column with this cautionary note:

Regardless of what others do, Mr. Murdoch has some work to do with consumers. When word came down in Australia that Mr. Murdoch would be expecting fees from readers of news.com.au in the coming year, readers rained invective and ridicule on the idea, including a commenter identifying himself as Alan Gilbey:

"Now let's see. Delete bookmark. Navigate to different news site. Create new bookmark. Rupert who??"

Gannet paper fires everyone
Will reorganize with 127 fewer

The Journal News, a Westchester area newspaper owned by Gannett, told all 288 of its news and advertising sales employees on Wednesday that their jobs were being eliminated and they would need to apply for redefined positions by the end of the week.
   After the redefined jobs are filled, there will be 20 fewer positions in advertising and 50 fewer positions in news, reducing the newsroom staff (which includes Web employees) by more than a quarter.
Last week, the paper laid off 57 employees in areas like production, finance, and information technology... In July, Gannett reported an 18 percent decline in revenue in its second quarter compared to the same period a year earlier. Newspaper ad revenue dropped 32 percent, it said... NY Times.

Sony to adopt new e-book technology
Latest attempt to slow up Amazon Kindle

Paper books may be low tech, but no one will tell you how and where you can read them. For many people, the problem with electronic books is that they come loaded with just those kinds of restrictions. Digital books bought today from Amazon.com, for example, can be read only on Amazon's Kindle device or its iPhone software.

Some restrictions on the use of e-books are likely to remain a fact of life. But some publishers and consumer electronics makers are aiming to give e-book buyers more flexibility by rallying around a single technology standard for the books. That would also help them counter Amazon, which has taken an early lead in the nascent market. On Thursday, Sony Electronics, which sells e-book devices under the Reader brand, plans to announce that by the end of the year it will sell digital books only in the ePub format, an open standard created by a group including publishers like Random House and HarperCollins.

Sony will also scrap its proprietary anticopying software in favor of technology from the software maker Adobe that restricts how often e-books can be shared or copied. After the change, books bought from Sony's online store will be readable not just on its own device but on the growing constellation of other readers that support ePub. Those include the Plastic Logic eReader, a thin device that has been in development for nearly a decade and is expected to go on sale early next year... NY Times.

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