The days of free online news content look numbered, at least in the US. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is in talks with rival publishers about forming a consortium to charge for online news.
The Los Angeles Times says News Corp chief digital officer, Jonathan Miller, is believed to have met with media firms including the New York Times Company, the Washington Post Company, Hearst Corporation, and Tribune Company, which owns the Los Angeles Times.
The news follows soon after News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch said that News Corp will charge users to access its news websites, including The Times and The Sunday Times, from 2010.
Miller is said to have been positioning News Corp as the ideal organisation to lead the online news industry's move into charging for content in part because of the fact that it already charges for online content through the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones' business intelligence and news service Factiva, and operates other paid-for services such as satellite TV platforms Sky and Star TV.
News Corp also has the advantage over some rivals in that it is a truly global firm with its operations in the US, UK, Europe, Australia and Asia.
One idea News Corp may be proposing is a single online registration and pay model that could work across a wide range of websites so as to avoid a myriad of different systems and website registration.
Such a plan is similar to the Journalism Online venture unveiled in April by media veteran Steve Brill. More than 500 newspapers are reportedly keen to join its system whereby it would charge for content online on behalf of newspaper and magazine publishers as well as dealing with the licensing of content.
Meanwhile, in recent weeks a number of publishers have been openly airing ideas about paid online content, including those from the Financial Times and The Guardian in UK.
Financial Times editor Lionel Barber said that the newspaper industry must charge for online content and argued that rival news organisations can follow the FT's subscription model. On its part, the Guardian said it was considering launching a "members' club" that would provide extra benefits to readers, such as exclusive content or live events for an annual or monthly fee.