News Corp. doubles-down on digital distribution with acquisition of Skiff

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Rupert Murdoch’s quest to find a way to get people to pay for news online continued Monday as News Corp. made two deals for companies that could be key to that mission.

News Corp., parent of newspapers around the world including the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, as well as the Fox network, 20th Century Fox and Fox News, bought Skiff, a maker of software that delivers information to tablets, smartphones and e-readers.

The conglomerate also took a stake in Steve Brill’s Journalism Online venture, which has been developing a mechanism for newspapers and magazines to collect revenue from their online readers.

‘Both Skiff and Journalism Online serve as key building blocks in our strategy to transform the publishing industry and ensure consumes will have continued access to the highest quality journalism,’ News Corp. Chief Digital Officer Jon Miller said in a statement. The company did not disclose financial details of the Skiff purchase.
Skiff, which was incubated by publisher Hearst Corp. as a separate company, has developed the back-end technology for displaying newspaper and magazine on e-readers in a way that resembles the original print publication. It also developed a device based on the e-ink technology, although News Corp. reportedly is not interested in manufacturing hardware devices that would compete with Apple Inc.'s iPad or the Kindle from


Journalism Online has also created a platform that allows publishers to choose from multiple options when it comes to charging for online access to stories -- including the ‘metered model’ in which casual readers continue to access information for free, but the most engaged readers pay for full access.

‘We’re delighted by this investment and this vote of confidence,’ Journalism Online co-founder Gordon Crovitz said in a statement. Crovitz was a senior executive at the Wall Street Journal and parent Dow Jones for almost three decades, but left after News Corp.'s acquisition of that company.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski