News Corp. Buys Skiff, Stake in Journalism Online

Acquisitions Fuel Its Campaign for Paid Digital Content

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In a pair of deals intended to fuel its campaign to expand paid digital content, News Corp. has bought the Skiff e-reading platform developed by Hearst and a stake in Journalism Online, a company founded to help publishers charge for content on the web.

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch
News Corp. did not, however, acquire the Skiff Reader, a planned e-reader device. It's not clear whether Hearst will still bring the device to market, seek a separate buyer for it or let the planned device die.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed and are not likely to prove material enough to show up in News Corp. financial reports.

News Corp. and CEO Rupert Murdoch have been arguing for some time now that newspapers need to start charging for their content on the web, but the new acquisitions put the company in position to sell them the services to do so. News Corp. has also suggested that it might offer a consumer pass that provides access to multiple gated websites, which again would benefit from the acquisitions. "Soon we'll deliver an innovative subscription model that will deliver content to consumers whenever, wherever they want it," News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said during a quarterly earnings call last month.

News Corp. already had pay technology in its arsenal, of course, starting with the longstanding pay wall at The Wall Street Journal Online and followed by the pay walls at the London Times and Sunday Times. But Journalism Online's outreach to many publishers during the past year may help News Corp. round up partners for its plan more quickly.

And the Skiff e-reading platform gives News Corp. new capabilities and potential services to offer publishers and consumers as e-readers continue to grow. Magazine and newspaper publishers are excited about the potential to sell their content on e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and tablet computers such as Apple's iPad.

News Corp. also said Monday that it had named Jon Housman to the newly created post of president for its digital journalism initiatives; Mr. Housman had been serving as a strategic advisor to News Corp. for the past several years.

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