News Corp. Acquires Skiff from Hearst

By: E&P Staff

News Corp. today added to its holdings Skiff LLC, Hearst Corporation’s e-reading platform designed to deliver content to tablets, smartphones, e-readers and netbooks.

Rupert Murdoch’s company also announced an investment in Journalism Online LLC, the company formed in April to provide publishers options for charging for online content. It allows publishers to choose and continually adjust multiple options for paid access, with each publisher selecting its own business model, offerings, and pricing — options News Corp. will surely exercise as it continues to experiment with paid models for news.

News Corp. earlier had proposed a consortium  of publishers as a means of retaining control of the business of publishing to e-raders, an initiative magazines already had undertaken., At the same time, Skiff and German service and device maker WeTab had proposed creating their own e-reader “ecosystems” to accomplish much the same thing across a variety of devices.

As reported in E&P’s June issue, Skiff planned to launch an e-reader device and was to open a digital storefront selling well-known domestic newspapers and magazines, with plans to add international titles, books and blogs. Its services and storefront were to be available on various operating systems, such as Android, Linux, modified iPhone, Windows and dedicated e-paper devices. Skiff is already optimizing e-reading content for Samsung smartphones.

Terms of the acquisition and investment were not disclosed.

The Wall Street Journal Website reported June 14 that its parent company would not puruse the 9-by-11-inch touchscreen Skiff Reader, a magnesium-encased, quarter-inch-thin, wireless-capable device. Tech blogger Peter Kafka posted this on the Wall Street Journal Digital Network’s “All Things Digital”: “The device itself remains property of Hearst, but it doesn’t want it, either: I’m told the publisher is trying to find a buyer.”

Lightweight and thin, Skiff was expected to ship this month relied on greyscale “e-paper” display technology from E Ink. “I think [e-paper] is still going to be an important and large segment,” Chief Marketing Officer Kiliaen Van Rensselaer told Senior Editor Jim Rosenberg. Noting the development of color for e-paper,  Van Rensselaer added, however, “There’s no question that color is critical for advertisers.”

Jon Housman has been named president of News Corp.’s digital journalism initiatives. In this newly created position, he will be responsible for driving and managing new business efforts on the online side.
“We’re especially pleased with this investment because News Corp. is the industry leader in making the case that there is value in journalism online for which readers will be willing to pay,” Journalism Online co-founder Gordon Crovitz said in a statement.

Go here for E&P’s June story on Skiff from our cover story on Tablets.

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