Murdoch looks to transform the web - but will it work?

As a former journalist, it pains me to see how the industry has developed over the last few years.

Day rates for freelances haven’t risen in line with inflation; daily and Sunday staff are being asked to work across all titles, resulting in the loss of some jobs; and the internet has meant that gaining a share of voice has become dispersed as blogs and social networking takes its toll.

But the beauty of the internet is that it allows everyone access to the news, entertainment and information they require.

Want to find something out about the latest diet, watch your team’s latest performance or learn more about the history of penicillin? The internet is the place to go.

And Google, which undoubtedly leads the way both as a search engine and perhaps for browsers, email and suchlike, is the place most of us go to find what we want to find out about.

But Rupert Murdoch is frustrated by this.

I read The Sun, The Times and Sunday Times online and don’t pay for them (though I do also buy them and use their sites more for breaking news) – and Mr Murdoch doesn’t like that.

In some respects, I understand why, because the lack of income from readers has had a direct effect on the fate of journalists.

But what Mr Murdoch should be doing is finding new ways of maximising his website income through advertising and banners.

Advertisers should be paying a premium for their ads to be seen by visitors to News Corp sites because those sites have content which is of great interest. But it is not always unique content.

Mr Murdoch is planning to erect ‘pay walls’ which will charge for online content on the Sun, the Times, the New York Post and the Australian, amongst others.

This will involve removing News Corp titles from Google searches and possibly running them through Bing, the Microsoft search engine, where readers will be directed to pay if they wish to read further.

Will readers start making the move profitable for Mr Murdoch and his empire? I’m not so sure.

The fact is, there will always be ways of reading online content and if News Corp continually stays ahead of the game (possibly investing any online subscription profits in firewalls to stop potential hackers), people will just go elsewhere.

A number of media organisations, including the BBC and The Guardian and Observer, have already declared that they will not charge for online content and that in turn could give them an advertising revenue advantage (in the case of the Guardian/Observer) by driving more readers to their sites.

The beauty of the internet is its accessibility and when information is available so freely, will News Corp and Mr Murdoch really be able to change the face of the worldwide web?

Watch this space – and I promise I won’t charge!