News Corp. Buys Skiff E-Reader Platform but Ditches the E-Reader

Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp., which just announced the purchase of Skiff.
Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp., which just announced the purchase of Skiff.

Less than a year ago, Rupert Murdoch said it was "not likely" that his media conglomerate would get into the hardware business with its own e-reading device. Now News Corp (NWS). is buying Skiff, an e-reading platform Hearst Corp. has been developing, for an undisclosed price. Has the old mogul reversed himself again?

Actually, no. It turns out the Skiff device itself isn't part of this deal. "We have no plans at this time to get into the hardware business," a News Corp. spokeswoman tells DailyFinance. "We acquired Skiff because of its publishing platform."

A Hearst spokesman confirmed that News Corp. is only acquiring the publishing platform, not the device, which was being developed in conjunction with a third-party manufacturer. It's not clear what will become of the device itself, but it appears that Hearst will seek to sell it in separate deal.

The Skiff device is based on E Ink, the same technology used in the screen of Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle and Sony's (SNE) Reader. Unlike the display in Apple's (AAPL) iPad, an E Ink screen reflects ambient light rather than generating its own, requiring less battery power and reducing eyestrain. The Skiff is meant to differ from the Kindle and the Reader, however, in that it was designed specifically as a vehicle for newspaper and magazine content, not books. Hearst showed off a prototype of the device, which was to go on sale sometime this year, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

In related news, News Corp. announced that it has made an investment in Journalism Online, a start-up whose mission is to help newspapers and other publishers adopt pay models to supplement their advertising revenue. Gordon Crovitz, one of Journalism Online's co-founders, was publisher of The Wall Street Journal but left shortly after Murdoch purchased the paper. News Corp. will get a seat on Journalism Online's five-person board. News Corp. has also appointed a new executive, Jon Housman, to oversee digital journalism efforts.