By Stephen Brook: German publisher Axel Springer’s plans to charge for online content from newspapers, including market-leading tabloid Bild, will start tomorrow, its chief executive said.
The content will start with a paid-for iPhone application for Bild, its flagship tabloid, and its quality newspaper Die Welt.
“I see no justification, neither democratic nor market-related, for content to be generally free on the internet,” Mathias Döpfner, Axel Springer’s chief executive, told the Wall Street Journal. “For centuries, people have been willing to pay for things of interest to them.”
The iPhone applications are the vanguard of a charging strategy that will include subscriptions and micropayment models, but also a lot of free content, Döpfner added.
The move by continental Europe’s largest publisher, which owns Fakt in Poland and Handelszeitung in Switzerland, is a fillip for Rupert Murdoch’s quest to persuade other companies to join News Corporation (NYSE: NWS) in charging for newspaper content online.
Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, the Sun and the Times, said last week that aggregation is theft. He plans for the Times and Sunday Times content to join the Wall Street Journal behind a paywall next year.
Springer wants Germany’s main telecoms operator, Deutsche Telekom (NYSE: DT), to allow users to be charged via their telephone bills. “One thing is clear: the customer wants it to be easy and quick,” Döpfner said.
He added that the internet was “the future of journalism” but more pain lay ahead for the industry before online charging was successfully introduced. “Suffering always helps bring about change,” he said.
Robert adds: We broke news in September that Guardian.co.uk, which strongly believes in keeping its core platform free, will also launch an iPhone app that’ will be paid-for. Other UK papers’ apps are free. Axel Springer is now closely aligned with News Corp on its affections for charging.
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