Sorry, Kindle: WSJ Warms to Sony

Posted by: Douglas MacMillan on December 17, 2009

News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch has made no secret of his disdain for the Amazon Kindle business model, punctuating recent earnings calls with remarks that the e-commerce giant pockets too much of the subscription fees for the Wall Street Journal and other content. On Thursday morning his company’s actions spoke louder than words, as it announced an exclusive deal with Sony, Amazon’s top rival in the e-reader business.

Sony’s Daily Edition device will be the first to receive automatic wireless updates of The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and the MarketWatch Web site. Subscriptions will be offered for a monthly charge of $15 for The Journal, and between $10 and $20 for the other options. For an extra fee, subscribers can choose to receive an update when the markets close in the afternoon, in addition to the morning news.

News Corp. already makes The Journal available for $15 per month on the Kindle, but users of the device cannot receive updates more than once a day. In theory, automatic updates could be made available to the Kindle — but Murdoch’s belief that his company’s cut of $6 to $6.50 is barring any such arrangement. Some speculated News Corp. would walk away from the Kindle altogether, but the new “exclusive” agreement for automatic updates on Sony readers appears to be the best counter the company could muster.

“There [were] issues with Kindle and Sony has been been very understanding of those concerns,” said Robert Thompson, editor of the Wall Street Journal, during a meeting with journalists. “If it wasn’t a better deal I wouldn’t be here today.”

Thompson also referred to another one of News Corp.'s gripes with Amazon: its shielding of subscriber information with content partners. "Our concerns about customer information have been addressed," Thompson said in the briefing.

The deal certainly benefits Sony, which is trying to get an edge over Amazon during the crucial holiday shopping season. Shipment of the Daily Edition reader, a $399 device with touch screen and wireless capabilities, has already been delayed several weeks. The company says the device will be widely available before Christmas.

Update, 5:30 PM ET: Amazon's Kindle does provide daily wireless updates to subscribers of WSJ and other newspapers each morning, and users do not have to manually download that content each morning as this post previously indicated. The ability to update the device with news and analysis after market close is what is being offered exclusively, as is the New York Post. Thanks to Karen from Books on the Knob for pointing this out.

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Reader Comments

Landon DeWitt

December 17, 2009 12:38 PM

Rupert Murdoch is not a very well liked man, and his charging huge fees for a pretty light product will only show this feature in a broader light. I believe people should make money but come on! He is just too greedy. I would hate to be this man's child on Christmas! Ever hear of Ebenezer Scrooge? That may be too kind however.

noone

December 17, 2009 12:41 PM

Good luck WSJ but honestly your publication was made obsolete a very long time ago and you are just now playing catch up. The fact is that you are praying that these devices succeed but the devices do not need you in any way shape of form. I would laugh my back side off if google tells you that they will stop carrying your magazine altogether. You should know better than to insult the hands that feed you especially when you are on your last legs.

Bernie Epstein

December 17, 2009 01:18 PM

This will never work. First and foremost, Murdoch keeps trying to control American politics through his political comedy channel (aka) Fox news. The blatant disrespect to accurate and unbiased journalism shown by his tabloid cable news channel has created a growing credibility issue for Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal. Sarcastic news spinning is all Murdoch brand has to offer, I don't believe anybody is going to pay for news that may just be propaganda and lacks substance.

Mike Furnow

December 17, 2009 01:21 PM

Three cheers for Amazon's attempt at securing the privacy of its subscribers. Apparently Sony had no reservations about sharing all user information with with its partner's, (Rupert Murdoch).

Todd

December 17, 2009 01:40 PM

I don't mind reading the WSJ on my Kindle and even if market updates were available automatically, I wouldn't want them; I have a cell phone that does that just fine. In fact, I will probably cancel the subscription at the end of the trial simply because I don't feel the WSJ delivers good value for the money.

Books on the Knob

December 17, 2009 01:51 PM

Not much research went into this post, at least on the Kindle side.

Amazon subscriptions do automatically update. The journal is published as a daily edition, so it is only once a day, but that doesn't mean he could not also offer one or more blog editions each day, which would get additional updates (the New York Times does, each one increasing revenue over the "paper" edition).

What's missing from the article:

- Did Sony cave to his terms and agree to hand out subscriber info?

- What percentage did Sony agree to give him, since he wasn't happy with with the apparent 4.25% he signed up for with Amazon (back when he probably thought it was all free money and no one would actually cancel their paper subscriptions and go digital only).

- Are the Sony updates wireless or cellular? Which models will it work with? Not all Sony's can install new content without using USB (most cannot, in fact, while all Kindle models can do so), so this apparent miracle of updating will be restricted to only those with the latest model(s?)m while all others will have to do as he incorrectly complained was the case with the Kindle - update manually, via USB.

Karen
Books On The Knob - a blog about free and bargain books
http://booksontheknob.blogspot.com
Twitter - @BooksOnTheKnob

Lewis Adams

December 17, 2009 01:57 PM

Congrats to Amazon for standing up to Murdoch. The guy is a creep! Go back to the tabloid news leader: Fox Noise.

Steve Wight

December 17, 2009 02:03 PM

I don't follow how users of the Kindle are forced to manually download editions of their subscribed newspapers each morning. I had a WSJ sub on my Kindle for many months when it was still $10/month, and it was automatically wirelessly delivered to the device every morning. As this article seems to say the Kindle WSJ subscription will continue to be available, I don't see how that's changed at all.

Lance Xu

December 17, 2009 02:34 PM

Still offering good contents, WSJ is risking becoming yesterday's paper. Hard to believe Murdoch crying fault Amazon charging too much but well it's murdoch.

Amazon and Google, please just drop WSJ and see what's gonna happen.

Tom McLaughlin

December 17, 2009 02:41 PM

All you whiners get a grip.

Consumer market perceptions trump reality ! Sony readers blow the kindle away.

Dan Johnson

December 17, 2009 04:37 PM

Aren't we missing the point? It seems that Sony is offering more to the newspaper reader - in-terms of daily updates and touchscreen capability. Want to at least see if the device will differentiate itself from the Kindle when it hits the market...

Phil

December 17, 2009 04:48 PM

Good for Murdoch. Now we will see what the market says. Most of the libs thought Fox would flop. The market works better than ideology.

Sullivan

December 17, 2009 05:03 PM

I don't know what makes anybody think the WSJ circulation is "obsolete." It sells about 2 million copies daily, and is the only paper in the US to succeed in charging a significant price for online content. You may not like Murdoch, but he's the most successful news publisher in the country, hands down.

odiextian

December 17, 2009 05:17 PM

I got my own kindle using the service at www.amzpricesniper.com. It watched the Amazon inventory and the moment Amazon received fresh inventory at the regular retail price this obnoxious alarm went off.

DougG

December 17, 2009 07:49 PM

The last gasp of traditional media. Why doesn't anyone ask Rupert how many trees are cut down each day to print his stuff? Instead of running around like a wounded bear, lashing out at everyone who "get's it', Rupy ought to get it himself and change his business model. He might even (accidentally) get a little greener in the process!

Brian

December 17, 2009 08:11 PM

Ooh... that's a REAL Kindle killer there... the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. Gee, I'll have to get rid of my Kindle now and get a Sony. If that's the best advantage Sony can come up with, their e-reader is doomed.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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