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Rupert Murdoch takes on Social Media Sharing with an iPad Only Newspaper

iPad Reading

And, so, the online media wars continue.  .  .  . Just as “Video Killed the Radio Star” in the ‘80s, so “the Internet Killed Print Media” in the 00’s. Or, so it seems. Yet media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, has unveiled his vision of an apps-only news source which he thinks will challenge this trend and cause readers to turn to their ‘readers’ for their daily dose of news, rather than to online news aggregators like Google News and Yahoo! News.

Technology blogger, Gordon Farrer, writing in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, digs deep into Mr. Murdoch’s (an Aussie-born, U.S. Citizen) efforts to eventually take the content produced by his media conglomerate, News Corp., offline and make it available on iPad.  Not only would news content be made available only after payment of a small subscription fee on an iPad (or other tablet devices), it would also be rendered unavailable for sharing on various social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Digg and del.icio.us, and it would be “opaque” to search engines like Google and Yahoo!

Many magazines and newspapers, like Wired, Vanity Fair and the Wall Street Journal, tightly restrict the amount of content that is available without an online subscription. Such “pay walls” are an attempt to shield the business model of traditional print media – where advertising supports the creation of investigative reporting and analysis – from the profit-bleeding that has resulted from today’s open Internet era, where anyone can create and/or copy content and share it endlessly. Google and other search engines can read, catalogue and rank the content behind a pay wall, but cannot even read app-only content.

Mr. Murdoch has already announced the launch of his first such apps-only newspaper. “The Daily — an iPad-only newspaper to be produced by News Corp with a staff of 100 journalists and a budget of $US30 million, [is] to be launched some time in the new year,” reports Mr. Farrer.

Moving news sources to an apps-only format is not just an effort to stop the flow of red ink (ouch!) that has shuttered the windows of hundreds of papers nationwide and around the world, it is as much a move to control the access and distribution of the news, whether legally or illegally, Mr. Ferrer notes.

“As an app-only publication, The Daily will have no print or web versions,” he observes. “Content will be available to the person who has the app and no one else. This model is more like that of a traditional newspaper, in which one person buys the product and uses it at any one time, and cannot easily share its content with large numbers of others.”

Mr. Rupert’s “no-news-for-free philosophy,” as Mr. Ferrer dubs it, has already been rolled out in The Australian, a local broadsheet Down-Under. Mr. Ferrer notes that not only is there “no way to share content using the ubiquitous Twitter, Facebook, Digg or del.ici.ous buttons that making social sharing so easy on websites . . . the iPad’s copy-and-paste function [have also] been disabled within the app, so it’s not possible to highlight slabs of text (let alone whole articles) and send them to friends or use them to fill your blog.”

It seems that the feisty and partisan Mr. Murdoch is prepared to go toe-to-toe with Google and its ethereal quest to ensure that all of the world’s information is available online. We will have to wait to see whose vision prevails.

James Barry is a freelance writer covering social media marketing and related topics for Toronto SEO company, Wolf21.com

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