Rupert Murdoch admitted last night that his plans for News Corp newspapers to begin charging online by June next year, might have to be postponed.
To date the media mogul has been the most proactive publisher in the move to charge for online news, consistently repeating the mantra that: "Quality journalism is not cheap and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting."
Nevertherless, the News Corp CEO appears to be finding it more challenging than expected to introduce paywalls for papers including the Sun, the Times, the New York Post and the Australian when he said last night: "I wouldn't promise that we're going to meet that date."
The target date was announced three months ago, but a lack of solidarity from other newspaper organisations including the Guardian, which has stressed that its website will continue to remain free, seems to have Murdoch double-thinking his plans.
Media commentator Jeff Jarvis has previously said that the only effect of Murdoch's papers charging online would be to clear the path for competitors. Some specialist papers can charge, he wrote in the Guardian, but "for most, pinning hopes for the survival of news on charging for it is not only futile but possibly suicidal."
Similarly, ex-journalist Alan Mutter has argued on his Newsosaur blog that there is just no profitability in general news, saying that only niche and local publications could potentially make money in charging for their online content.
Murdoch refused to comment on the reasons for the delay other than saying: "It's a work in progress and there's a huge amount of work going on."
News Corp newspaper profits have plummetted in the three month to September, with a drop in earnings from $134m to $25m. Murdoch's initiative- which has sparked feverent debate in the media industry about charging for content, and charging for what content- is an attempt to recover come profits for struggling print media.