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Aug. 6, 2009, 12:36 p.m.

Before Rupert Murdoch learned to love paid content, he said this

At the April 2005 ASNE convention in Washington, D.C., there was a lone voice who seemed to “get it.” Surprisingly — or so I thought at the time — that voice belonged to Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch, who this week announced his intention to embrace paid content across his digital empire, stood in front of the gathered U.S. editors in 2005 and gave them a pretty good assessment of where the online news world would head:

… we have to refashion what our web presence is. It can’t just be what it too often is today: a bland repurposing of our print content. Instead, it will need to offer compelling and relevant content. Deep, deep local news. Relevant national and international news. Commentary and debate. Gossip and humor.

Some newspapers will invest sufficient resources to continuously update the news, because digital natives don’t just check the news in the morning – they check it throughout the day. If my child played a little league baseball game in the morning, it would be great to be able to access the paper’s website in the afternoon to get a summary of her game, maybe even accompanied by video highlights.

But our internet site will have to do still more to be competitive. For some, it may have to become the place for conversation. The digital native doesn’t send a letter to the editor anymore. She goes online, and starts a blog. We need to be the destination for those bloggers. We need to encourage readers to think of the web as the place to go to engage our reporters and editors in more extended discussions about the way a particular story was reported or researched or presented.

Murdoch, the 2005 model, believed the key to the future was audience growth and online ad revenue:

We’ve spent billions of dollars developing unique sports, news and general entertainment programming. We have a library as rich as anyone in this world. Our job now is to bring this content profitably into the broadband world – to marry our video to our publishing assets, and to garner our fair share – hopefully more than our fair share — of the advertising dollars that will come from successfully converging these media.

Someone whom I respect a great deal, Bill Gates, said recently that the internet would attract $30 billion in advertising revenue annually within the next three years. To give you some perspective, this would equal the entire advertising revenue currently generated each year by the newspaper industry as a whole. Of course, all of this could not be new money. Whether Bill’s math is right is almost beside the point. What is indisputable is the fact that more and more advertising dollars are going on-line, and we must be in a position to capture our fair share.

The full speech is here.

POSTED     Aug. 6, 2009, 12:36 p.m.
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