Google CEO Questions Plan to Pay for News Online

Publishers of general news would find it hard to charge for their content online because too much free content is available, the chief executive of Google said on Thursday.

Speaking to a group of British broadcasting executives via video link, Eric Schmidt said he could, however, imagine niche providers of content such as business news succeeding in this area.

Schmidt was responding to an announcement by News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch that he could start charging for content online.

“In general these models have not worked for general public consumption because there are enough free sources that the marginal value of paying is not justified based on the incremental value of quantity,” he said.

“So my guess is for niche and specialist markets … it will be possible to do it but I think it is unlikely that you will be able to do it for all news.”

Murdoch, whose press empire includes popular tabloids like the New York Post and Britain’s Sun as well as The London Times, said in August he may start charging for access to news Web sites by the middle of next year.

The Wall Street Journal, bought by News Corp. (NASDAQ: NWS) in 2007, is one of the few daily newspapers that makes people pay to read its news on the Web.

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