Murdoch shelves “lame” digital newsstand plans

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has shelved ambitious plans to create a subscription online newsstand after failing to attract enough interest among other news organisations, according to sources.

Murdoch shelves

The owner of The Times of London, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal will reassign the staff working on “Project Alesia,” which aimed to charge readers for a bundle of digital content.

The source said News Corp was unable to reach a “critical mass” of publishers to support the plan.

Project Alesia was one of several digital journalism initiatives that also included a news product, identified internally as the Daily Planet and designed for tablet devices.

Alesia was said to “not be on the fast track” any longer for News Corp, the source said, but it still hoped to launch the service at a later date.

Murdoch has been exploring new ways to charge readers for news and entertainment online, as with The Times paywall, particularly on portable tablet devices such as Apple’s iPad and cellphones.

In the last year, News Corp has invested in start-ups like Journalism Online, a company that helps publishers charge for online access, and Skiff, an e-reader company.

News Corp executives pitched to publishers the idea of selling access to multiple newspapers and magazines, proposing to take a cut of subscription revenue and also controlling some of the customer data, sources said.

One publisher described the pitch as “lame”. Another newspaper publisher executive said they did not take the offer seriously.

Publishers are particularly protective of their subscriber data, such as names, addresses and credit card numbers, which helps them court advertisers and market new products to existing readers.

Discussions between Apple and publishers over selling subscriptions to magazines and newspapers on the iPad have stumbled on the same issue.

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