Today The Australian’s Media section ran Readers not averse to paying for online content by Nick Tabakoff. As the headline suggests the story looks at an international study by PricewaterhouseCoopers which found ‘readers could be willing to pay almost as much for some high-quality online newspapers as they do for print versions, particularly in specialist news areas’.

Could this be related to the PricewaterhouseCoopers study referred to by Miriam Steffens in The Sydney Morning Herald’s Readers reluctant to pay for online news?

Indeed it is.

Now, strictly speaking there’s a thin semantic line between ‘readers being reluctant to pay’ and ‘readers not adverse to paying for’. One does not directly contradict the other. But the two headlines are clearly two different interpretations of the same data.

Or as we say in the media, they each have a different spin.

Which one is more plausible?

Both Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, the owner of The Australian and Fairfax Media, owner of the SMH have a vested interest in the story.

Murdoch has gone on the record in recent days saying he wants to charge readers for online content on News Corporation web sites. The headline on Nick Tabakoff’s story squares nicely with Murdoch’s recent statements on the issue. We all know Murdoch interferes editorially in his papers. While it’s extremely unlikely he had a hand in this particularly story, it does reflect the official line now coming from News Corporation.

Fairfax is more complicated. The company’s The Australian Financial Review operates behind a content paywall. It costs around $3 a pop to view an AFR story, though most paying customers have all-you-can-eat subscriptions. On the other hand the SMH, The Age and the company’s other online properties including New Zealand’s are all free to readers and make money from online advertising.

Now which story looks the most plausible?


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