Murdoch and Fox plan to charge for online news, a look at the future.

If there is anyone in the media/business world I admire more than Rupert Murdoch, I'd be hard pressed to think of anyone. No, it's not a matter of our politics lining up and being in sync. I admire him because he had the foresight decades before anyone else to see where society and technology were headed on a global scale. I remember reading a Forbes magazine article in the early 1980s where he was doubted and ridiculed for his expansion into the U.S., starting a cable channel and investing in SkyNews in Europe, as well as investing in the then tiny Asian markets. More than anyone, Murdoch has had the courage to stay the course, even when it meant taking big losses in the short-term until his vision became reality.Rupert Murdoch

Therefore, his announcement yesterday that he intends to charge for ALL Fox News content online starting in 2010 has the Internet and media worlds in various states of anxiety. Some laugh it off as an impossible task. See Gawker's analysis.  Others, such as Andrew Sullivan, tepidly endorse the potential of his ability to pull it off. As always, the short-term thinkers look at this and simplify it by saying who would pay to listen to Glenn Beck or the screaming headlines of the NY Post.

My answer is a LOT more people than the media gurus and analysts could ever imagine. Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly may be scoffed at by the media elites, but that doesn’t erase the fact that Fox News posted record earnings for the 2nd quarter. Who is laughing now? As much as some people might hate to admit it, from a business and ratings standpoint, the Fox News model DOES get viewers and numbers and that, my friends, translates quite easily to a paid model.

Consider the properties and franchises that Fox has in the UK, Australia, India, Asia and the U.S. Each has a highly focused, loyal and specific audience. They may not represent the mass market, but they do represent a large enough percentage to capitalize on, through subscription or bundles similar to the way you purchase cable packages from your local cable TV provider. The most obvious example is the Wall Street Journal franchise that everyone seems to point to. However, I believe Murdoch is thinking bigger than just slapping a subscription fee on specialized financial news or commentary.

Murdoch realizes that the Internet provides built-in exposure and reduced overhead for delivery of content. He also knows through MySpace and other popular websites that the area with the single greatest growth is ONLINE VIDEO. In the big picture, I wouldn’t be surprised if Murdoch isn’t headed toward a "cable bundle" package by content type. These bundles would be easy to provide, such as celebrity/entertainment, finance, sports, political, etc., with written content as the key word hook, but the video commentary as the element that morphs into people’s daily online news habit.

As Chairman of the Legal Broadcast Network, I can tell you that we’re already participating in a similar business model. LBN has recently signed several deals by which our content is being bundled and packaged into subscription services for which people pay a premium. They want to pay someone else to eliminate the junk from the Internet and blogs, thus leaving them with the best content possible in the easiest form to read or view at their convenience. Busy professionals are definitely willing to pay a premium for this valuable editorial and time-saving service. I think Murdoch knows on a grand scale what we know here at The Legal Broadcast Network, which is: high-quality, original content and commentary is desired by high value readers and viewers who will pay a modest premium to gain access to that content if they can get it all in one place. The process of finding credible information and news among the sea of misinformation and cluttered websites frustrates the Internet experience of the average person. If Murdoch and Fox can sell clean, clearly defined, simple packages with the news and entertainment people want, then you will see this venture become extraordinarily successful.

Watch for Murdoch and Fox to continue developing niche audience material that can be packaged in convenient bundles while going to court in much the same way the RIAA did to aggressively protect its copyright on Fox content. It will be bloody and ugly and the Internet mavens will be screaming. The fact remains that Murdoch is once again ahead of the pack and he’ll develop the next media model, while his peers continue to watch their franchises implode.

What does all this have to do with structured settlements? Not a lot directly, other than the fact that the phrase "structured settlement" is one of the most expensive pay-per-click items on the Internet. The inflated pay-per-click costs have made marketing for this profession more expensive than you might imagine. We as an industry online are plagued with phony blogs, scraped sites, scammers and spammers who steal our original content and repackage it on blogs with Google Ads designed to monetize their traffic using our commentary. As time goes on, you’ll find that original, copyrighted material such as the Settlement Channel must gravitate toward paid distributors who value what we write and broadcast. The moral of this story and the look to the future is that we will soon see a dual delivery package of "free" that is mostly junk and "subscription or bundle" that is high quality and edited.

Posted on August 6, 2009 .