NYT attacks Rupert Murdoch for his love of newspapers - irony, anyone?

In Sunday's New York Times, Tim Arango and Richard Pérez-Peña reported on News Corp (NWS), Rupert Murdock's media empire. Noting the two-thirds drop in its stock value over the past year, as well as the $8.4 billion in write-downs that it recently took, Arango and Pérez-Peña opined that Murdock's "soft spot for print" may prove to be his company's undoing.

Irony is a beautiful thing, particularly when it is paired with schadenfreude. The fact that The New York Times (NYT), a famously embattled company, has found delight in Murdoch's failing fortunes is ironic. The fact that their primary criticism of the businessman lies in his love of newspapers is absolutely beautiful. The Times has a good point: in the current economic climate, newspapers are a very questionable investment. However, considering that the Times is itself a newspaper, this is roughly comparable to a girl criticizing her boyfriend because he only dates ugly women.

The greatest irony may lay in the fact that, as Arango and Pérez-Peña noted, Murdock's Wall Street Journal has outperformed most other newspapers. Over the past year, it has successfully maintained its customer base, both in hardcopy and on the internet, and has actually managed what many observers believed was impossible: it has convinced its online subscribers to actually pay for content.

Paid online content, the holy grail of the newspaper business, is key to the continued survival of traditional journalism. However, as media concerns from The New York Times to the Tribune Co. scramble for cash, the question is increasingly whether they will be able to institute a pay-based online revenue model before falling subscriptions and evaporating ad revenues force them to dissolve.

The key to making a pay-based model work will probably be the development of micropayments, which Walter Isaacson championed in a recent issue of Time magazine. Unfortunately, this solution is fraught with perils, most notably the lack of a convenient online payment method. The desire to solve this problem might have influenced last year's attempted News Corp/Yahoo merger. However, the failure of that union has left News Corp, like the rest of the print journalism world, searching for the magic bullet that will enable it to survive the latest technological revolution.
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