News Corp. on a digital tear

Company buys Skiff, Journalism Online

News Corp. is assembling the “building blocks” of its long-term strategy to squeeze more revenue out of its news and other journalistic content online.

The company on Monday unveiled a deal to acquire Hearst Corp.’s e-reader platform Skiff, and it made a minority investment in Journalism Online, a venture that aims to serve as a hub for publishers to charge readers for broad access to news content.

“Both Skiff and Journalism Online serve as key building blocks in our strategy to transform the publishing industry and ensure consumers will have continued access to the highest quality journalism,” said Jon Miller, News Corp.’s chief digital officer.

Jon Housman, who has worked for News Corp. for the past few years as a strategic adviser on various projects, has been named prexy of News Corp.’s digital journalism initiatives.

News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch has hinted for months that the company is developing an ambitious plan for a paid-access online journo distribution service that might involve publications outside of News Corp.’s walls.

The technology that powers the Skiff platform is seen as a possible foundation for that service. Skiff was designed by Hearst specifically for displaying newspapers and magazines. Journalism Online, founded in April 2009 by Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, is developing a paywall service that News Corp. is eyeing as a possible platform for its individual news outlets and possibly for the broader journo distribution service.

Financial terms of the Skiff acquisition and the size of News Corp.’s investment in Journalism Online were not disclosed. Housman will join Journalism Online’s board as part of the deal.

“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,” Crovitz said.

Housman’s background also includes serving as a manager director and board member of the Wall Street Journal Europe and as co-founder and CEO of Gotham-based Jungle Media Group.

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