Tribune Co.’s Zell on Pay Walls: After You, Rupert

By: E&P Staff

Tribune Co. newspapers won’t lead the charge on online pay walls, but its chairman and CEO, Sam Zell, said Tuesday he’s delighted News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is out front on the issue.

“I’m more than willing to let Rupert take the first sword,” Zell said on the CNBC business show Squawk Box. “And if it works, then I think everybody’s going to follow him, and should have in the first place.”

Zell said the business model for online newspaper content “has to be changed.”

“I think issues like ‘Can you keep giving it away for free?’ don’t make any sense,” he said.

And that goes for print, too, he added: “Do you keep delivering it to people’s homes at costs that are unjustifiable? I think there are a lot of issues that the newspaper industry has to challenge, take advantage of, and recognize that technology is changing their role and they have to adapt accordingly.”

If the cost of access to newspapers unique and local content is low enough, pay walls can work, Zell suggested. “If in fact the cost of access to that is pennies I don’t think that’s going to be an impediment to getting it done,” he said.

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