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The price of good news -

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ELEANOR HALL: Joining us now though is Margaret Simons. She is a journalist and author whose latest
book The Content Makers looks at the future of Australian media and the challenge facing online
media content providers.

She writes about new media issues on the Crikey website and is a lecturer at Swinburne University
of Technology and she's on the line in Melbourne.

Dr Simons, welcome to the program.

MARGARET SIMONS: Thank you.

ELEANOR HALL: Rupert Murdoch is clearly making a direct challenge to online news providers like
Google and Yahoo. How do you think they will respond?

MARGARET SIMONS: Well I wouldn't rule out that they might pay something for content. They have
recen... Google in particular has recently come to a settlement with authors in relation to Google
Books so it's not out the question that they would pay but whether or not they would pay anything
that reflects the value of the content or the cost of producing it is another matter entirely.

ELEANOR HALL: They do have the funds to pay though don't they?

MARGARET SIMONS: Oh yes certainly. I mean Google is one of the most successful businesses in the
world.

ELEANOR HALL: And so why wouldn't they pay?

MARGARET SIMONS: Well presumably because they think that they can get content of equivalent quality
elsewhere for free and they may be right about that.

ELEANOR HALL: I guess the question is with Rupert Murdoch leading this challenge, would Google and
Yahoo be concerned that other news content providers could easily follow suit?

MARGARET SIMONS: Well I think the key words there are leadership and risk.

Rupert Murdoch is the only media proprietor in the world who could possibly try something like this
and that's because of his dominance of the news industry - something which of course has been a
very mixed blessing. But it does mean that if anybody is going to lead in this direction it has to
be him really.

If he succeeds then we'll look back on this as probably his last great act of industry leadership
because it will establish a sustainable model for high quality journalism.

But the likelihood, you know it is an incredibly risky endeavour because although News Corp is
dominant there are many, many other sources of news and it's quite likely that not all of the
content of News Corp will actually be of high enough quality that people will be prepared to pay
because they'll be able to get equivalent stuff elsewhere. So it really does place the emphasis on
the quality of the content.

I think Murdoch is probably partly right. I think high quality, specialised content, people will be
prepared to pay but I also think the sort of commoditised, bite sized parts of international and
national news will easily be provided by others on a free to air model supported by advertising.

ELEANOR HALL: So what do you think? Do you think Rupert Murdoch will win this fight?

MARGARET SIMONS: I wouldn't be prepared to predict but I suspect that he will be moving out of the
business of mass media and increasingly into highly specialised, high quality content if he wants
this to succeed.

So people may pay for a scoop that they can't read anywhere else. They're not going to pay just for
hearing the latest stuff that they can get on any other news service, including on the wires.

ELEANOR HALL: It was inevitable that something like this would happen wasn't it? I mean the model
that's there at the moment is not sustainable is it?

MARGARET SIMONS: Well not if we want the sort of journalism that we've had over most of the last
hundred years, that's right.

New business models are going to have to emerge or the old ones are going to have to adapt and I've
always thought that paying for content was certainly one of the models that will succeed in the
future.

But I don't think people will pay for just any content. They're going to be, it's going to have to
be something pretty special and something they can't get elsewhere and that really lays down the
challenge to journalists to actually live up to their own rhetoric if you like.

ELEANOR HALL: Margaret Simons, thanks very much for joining us.

MARGARET SIMONS: Thank you. Bye.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Margaret Simons. Her latest book - she's a journalist - her latest book is The
Content Makers.