The Wall Street Journal is to start charging for its mobile application in the next few months, News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch announced at Goldman Sachs' annual media conference. Murdoch also declared that although, e-readers might take 20 years to displace newspapers, there would come a day when print papers were no more.
The Journal will charge non-subscribers $2 a week for mobile access and subscribers will pay $1 a week, it appears. Those who subscribe to both the print and online version of the paper will get free mobile access.
As yet, few papers charge for their mobile applications. The Financial Times, which along with the Wall Street Journal, is one of the rare English-language newspapers to charge online, operates the same metre model as it does on its website, allowing readers to only read a set number of articles free and making full access subscription-only. But now that newer iPhone operating systems offer subscription possibilities, it is very possible that more publishers will start charging. The New York Times, for a start, is considering putting mobile access behind a paywall. And in Italy, RCS Digital properties Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport will also launch paid mobile apps in the near future, according to a press release.
Murdoch once again expressed dissatisfaction with the revenue split with Amazon on the Kindle. The Columbia Journalism Review reported in May that only 30% of income from newspaper subscriptions on the Kindle go to the publisher. The News Corp media mogul seemed more enthusiastic about the opportunities offered by Sony's new 3G wireless reader: "we have very good terms there and we will doing everything we can to drive that one," the FT quoted Murdoch as saying.
Murdoch reiterated his conviction that the future for newspapers is digital, it was widely reported. Once people start buying their newspapers on portable reading panels" rather than "on crushed trees," there will be a day when there will be "no paper, no printing plants, no unions," he said, adding that "it's going to be great."
Can revenue from distribution on e-readers and smartphones be a significant source of income for publishers? Consumers already pay for subscriptions on e-readers and the general view seems to be that they would be more likely to pay for news on phones than online, as they are used to getting everything free online. A key point to remember, however, is that as yet, not everybody uses a smartphone and even fewer own e-readers.