Australian Newspapers Chairman Says Newspaper Publishers Will Struggle to Charge for Online Content

By: E&P Staff

Andrew Burrell From | The Australian

WEST Australian Newspapers chairman Kerry Stokes says newspaper publishers will struggle to charge for online content.

He says that will remain the case while government-owned broadcasters are providing free content in competition with the private sector.

The media magnate told the WAN annual meeting in Perth yesterday that the company had no plans to charge extensively for online content and such a strategy would only work for companies with a “very unique” product.

“As long as there are governments in the world, like the ABC and BBC, offering free news services, it’s going to be really difficult for newspapers to charge for a service because all the information is still going to be available,” he said.

Mr Stokes’ comments came after WAN chief executive Chris Wharton told shareholders that the recent strength in real estate and employment advertisements in its flagship The West Australian newspaper belied claims of a structural shift for newspapers in which all classifieds were migrating online.

WAN shares fell almost 4 per cent yesterday to $6.77 after analysts were disappointed by its first-quarter results released late on Wednesday.

The company reported a 2.6 per cent increase in net profit to $23.5 million.

Deutsche Bank said that although advertisers had been holding back on spending, it expected WAN’s normal trading patterns to resume in the lead-up to Christmas.

At the meeting, Mr Stokes also launched his first public criticism of the Labor government’s mining tax, describing it as an “attack” on Western Australia that was aimed at redistributing mineral wealth to states that did not deserve it.

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