Buffett eyeing more papers, and not going to publish free content

Posted on May 25, 2012

BILLIONAIRE investor Warren Buffett says he could add to the 63 newspaper mastheads his company bought this month as the media industry embraces digital subscriptions.

Mr Buffett says it is ‘‘unsustainable’’ for newspapers to publish their content online for free.

‘‘This is an unsustainable model and certain of our papers are already making progress in moving to something that makes more sense,’’ he said in a letter to editors and publishers of his daily newspapers. ‘‘We want your best thinking as we work out the blend of digital and print that will attract audience and revenue.’’

Mr Buffett added to Berkshire’s newspaper assets with a $US142 million deal this month for Media General publications that include Virginia’s Richmond Times-dispatch.

Mr Buffett, who said in 2009 that newspapers had the potential for unending losses, is now betting that papers with a community focus can profit as they change their models.

‘‘Berkshire will probably buy more papers in the next few years,’’ he said. ‘‘We will favour cities with a strong sense of community.’’

The newspaper industry has embraced digital subscription plans.

The New York Times Media Group began charging readers to access its stories online last year, attracting about 454,000 paying subscribers as of March.

The so-called paywall is estimated to bring in $US125 million next year for Times Co, an analyst says.

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