I ran into James Murdoch last night at Minetta Tavern, the movie star joint in the West Village. Murdoch's chagrin upon seeing me soon passed and he was very gracious toward my son, who had just finished a star turn in his high school musical.
Murdoch is in town, along with all the other big shots from News Corp's far-flung newspaper empire, at the behest of his father. Murdoch Sr. is hosting a summit to address the problem he seems to have committed his declining years to solving: How to get people to pay for his newspaper articles on the Internet.
He has been trying, without much success, to come up with a good answer for more than a year now. The latest plan, not yet announced, is a Hulu-like strategy which will aggregate content from a wide variety of different publishers (News Corp. people are saying that the New York Times is on board for this). It will be a one-stop destination for news, which sounds a lot like...well, Newser, which, since Rupert has never been online, he does not know exists.
Anyway, his summit on charging for content is not likely to be any more productive than the president's on health care. This is not, however, because there is dissension in the Murdoch ranks. It is not possible to be a Murdoch news executive and not to be firmly on the side of charging for content. Indeed, almost everybody at News Corp.'s newspapers has adopted a tone of the greatest moral indignation about the Internet (a stance which is usually not so helpful in solving a commercial problem).
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