Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch are entrepreneurs with an admirable record of ignoring conventional wisdom, so it is worth watching when they do the same thing at once.
In this case, they are launching iPad-only publications. Sir Richard bowled into New York on Tuesday to unveil a £1.79 or $2.99 monthly magazine called Project, while Mr Murdoch is about to launch a “newspaper” called The Daily, for which he hopes 800,000 people will pay $1 a week. Both will charge readers in an era when most internet publications are free.
The fact that Mr Murdoch will separate his new daily publication from “the open web” by publishing on the iPad has provoked scepticism and hostility in digital media circles. “Murdoch keeps fighting the internet and the internet keeps on winning,” wrote Mathew Ingram, of the GigaOm technology blog.
This fits into a bigger debate about whether companies are balkanising the web to gain economic leverage. Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist who invented the World Wide Web, complained in Scientific American about Facebook’s private accumulation of data, and of print publishers’ “disturbing” wish to create closed worlds.