Rupert Murdoch and the future shape of content bundles

John Gapper of the Financial Times speculates that what lies behind Rupert Murdoch’s bid for the rest of the shares he does not own in Sky TV is the enticing possibility of bundling subscriptions to broadcast and written content. Gapper’s example from the US is the bundled sale of access to Cablevision and Newsday.

That would seem to be one advantage of the bid to won Sky outright, if it succeeds. But you can take the speculation further and in a direction which has profound implications for the established newspaper titles in the News Corp empire – or in any other multi-channel news media business. (Routine declaration: I worked for The Times, owned by News Corp, until 2009).

In what we might call the second phase of digital news publishing – characterised by tablets, tailored apps and more determined efforts to control more of the value chain and customer data – there’s more than one way to change the bundles. One innovation would indeed be to sell a TV+print package. Another would be to recut and re-present material assembled together which isn’t normally seen in the bundle because it belongs in separate titles or brands.

One of the freedoms of the internet which young users in particular like is surfing across a lot of sources. Could a company like News Corp offer to subscribers a football package which allows the subscribing user access to all football material across all its properties…say coverage from The Sun, the Sunday Times and Sky, both broadcast and website?

There’d be some overlap for sure  but it would also be an “enriched” package which might sell for a premium price. Editorial skills would be needed to weave the various elements into a coherent (or the least incoherent) whole. Offers might come with tablets and appropriate apps. The same principle could be applied to celebrity gossip, international news, fashion, politics, humour, opinion and other generic strands of content.

I’d better add that while I worked at The Times no one ever discussed such an idea in my hearing. But since it isn’t rocket science to think this way, don’t be surprised if someone with a varied, multi-channel output experimented with a new bundles.

Update 22/9/10: there’s a refreshingly contra-suggestive opinion here from Slate’s Jack Shafer coming down hard on Murdoch’s critics for their refusal to face competition.

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