News Corp.'s (NWS) Rupert Murdoch is mad--perhaps literally and figuratively. Presumably, billions of dollars in losses will have that effect on a person. Not surprisingly, he's looking for ways to stop the bleeding--or, he's just looking for revenge. It's hard to tell.
First, he's ordered an end to the free ride. That means, no more free online news. Yes, FoxNews.com too. (Hey, that's fair and balanced, right?) Then, he negotiated with Amazon.com, a higher revenue share for Wall Street Journal electronic Kindle subscriptions. And, finally, he issued an ultimatum: Give us the names of Kindle subscribers, or we walk.
During his fiscal-year-end earnings call with analysts, Murdoch said, "...we don't get the names of the subscribers. Kindle treats them as their subscribers, not as ours, and I think that will eventually cause a break with us."
Murdoch also made it clear that News Corp had no intention of competing with the Kindle e-reader, but instead stressed the need for News Corp properties to "return to their old margins of profitability... Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting."
Still, Kindle subscribers have already been paying for the Wall Street Journal, despite the fact that The Wall Street Journal Online has been giving away the same content for free. But, apparently, Murdoch is willing to give up that revenue for what appears to be a turf-war over the ownership of personal subscriber data.
The whole fight begs the question: Do Kindle owners see themselves as Amazon subscribers or Wall Street Journal Subscribers, and--in the end--does it matter how they see themselves?
As for Murdoch's state of mind: Is he howling mad, or is he crazy like a Fox News Host? That remains to be seen. But, if he messes with Amazon subscribers, I pity the fool.
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