On his quarterly call with analysts, News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch said he intends to start charging people for access to their online content. He said the Wall Street Journal has proved it can be done. I wonder if he’s right. Right now you can access most of the WSJ for free. As an iPhone user I can access a good deal of WSJ content using the WSJ app on the iPhone. Also if you Google any WSJ news headline on your PC you can often see the entire article without a subscription.
Aside from the fact that the WSJ is free to many people, I also wonder what happens when he tries to take his publications behind a subscription wall. I suspect many of his readers will opt for a rival publication that doesn’t charge or for well written blogs. I also struggle to see the typical Sun reader paying a subscription. I know the news media business is struggling to find a profitable business model right now and that the subscrioptn model is an obvious place to look. I just don’t see it working for mainstream consumer publications. I can see people paying a blanket subscription in the same way they might do for cabel TV or satellite radio but for that thye need a broad range of titles to be the equivalent of channels on these properties. Murdoch is no fool and has made some shrewd moves in the media business. Launching his own media channel on the web that you can subscribe to but which contains news media from both his print AND broadcast properties. Now that I can see working if the price is right.
When I blogged on the importance of Facebook the other day I have to admit I would have struggled to put a $15Bn valuation on the business. That said, Microsoft has effectively done that today making both the purchase of MySpace by News Corp for $580m and Google’s acquisition of YouTube for $1.65Bn look like bargains. It will be fascinating to see what this deal does to the Facebook express train. With this amount of cash they can presumably go global and invest in their platform at a pretty aggressive rate. It will also allow the senior executives to get on with running the company instead of having to go through any rounds of VC funding. That said, it is pretty clear that they’d have had no problem raising money via that route if they’d wanted.
What I find more interesting is that Microsoft took such a small stake. It is pretty clear that they simply wanted to block Google rather than get executive control at this stage. Of course beyond the stock deal there is the ad rights portion. This is where the deal starts to make a lot of sense. The deal effectively gives them the rights to one of the biggest online properties on the planet and for that reason alone you can see why the valuation makes sense.
We have seen Tech valuations rebound quite dramatically this year. We had the VM Ware IPO which has been an amazing success story and now we have this deal. It certainly seems like the investment banks are keen to recoup the losses the banks have made in the mortgage business by some bold tech investments. It will be interesting to see which tech property can outdo these deals. One things for sure – someone will!