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Murdoch Empire to Charge for Online Content Next Year

Following the announcement of huge financial losses in its fourth quarter, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch has vowed that the company will charge for access to all news websites, including FoxNews.com, by the middle of next year.

News Corp. revenue fell 11% to $7.7 billion in the quarter ended June 30; the company’s loss was $203 million, down from a $1.1 billion net gain last year, according to the Los Angeles Times. The loss was due in part to a $452 million impairment charge for Fox Interactive Media, the unit which includes MySpace.

Cable network earnings rose 31%, with the increase driven entirely by affiliate fees; advertising for the cable nets was down 10%. The company’s television division, including Fox stations, saw profits slip from $1.12 billion to $174 million, with operating income down 66%.

Murdoch has said in the past that the era of free journalism would soon be coming to an end. “Quality journalism is not cheap,” Murdoch is quoted as saying in the Guardian. “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 websites.”

Currently, the Wall Street Journal is the only News Corp. property which charges for content.

Murdoch said (via MarketWatch) that, while the economic situation may have bottomed out, he sees no clear signs for a fast recovery.

Some newspaper groups and other media companies are considering charging for content, or have already done so. MediaNews Group, publisher of 54 daily newspapers including The Denver Post and the Detroit News, says it will soon be charging a fee for its newspaper content online, while The New York Times Co. chairman, Aurthur Sulzberger Jr., told shareholders in April that the company would be “exploring a new online financial strategy.”

Disney also plans to experiment with a paid subscription model online.

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