Rupert Murdoch is forging ahead with his plan to charge for all News Corp. digital content. But he revealed this week that he’s not above a little collusion in his industry. During a National Press Club interview at George Washington University, Murdoch explained that consumers will gladly pay for newspaper content:

“When they have got nowhere else to go.”

Too bad for Murdoch that he can’t control the prices of his competitors.

During a taping of The Kalb Report, Murdoch brought out his now familiar criticism that Google and other search engines are stealing newspaper content to reap the advertising dollars for themselves. Murdoch argued that publishers should ban together to make aggregaters either pay for newspaper content or do their own reporting:

“They
ought to stop it, the newspapers ought to stand up and let them do
their own reporting.”

Of course, if online sites start doing more reporting, Murdoch’s papers could be in a lot of trouble. Especially considering that a key to his paid strategy is ensuring that other publishers also charge for access. He told Marvin Kalb that the public will pay for content:

“When they have got nowhere else to go they will start paying. If it is reasonable. No one is going to ask for a lot of money.”

But websites offering free — and original — content are popping up all the time. Moreover, News Corp. competitors are sure to learn that they can get a leg up by giving their content away for free. The Guardian newspaper, for instance, has put its chips on free, ad supported content. Earlier this year, Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, made that clear:

“If you erect a universal pay wall around your content then it
follows you are turning away from a world of openly shared content.
Again, there may be sound business reasons for doing this, but
editorially it is about the most fundamental statement anyone could
make about how newspapers see themselves in relation to the
newly-shaped world.”

And then there’s the small question of how much Murdoch’s publications are going to charge. He says that the prices will be “reasonable,” and Murdoch is especially bullish on the iPad:

“I got a glimpse of the future last weekend with the Apple iPad. It is
a wonderful thing. If you have less newspapers and more of
these … it may well be the saving of the newspaper industry.”

Of course, it may be sound business reasoning to charge a higher fee for an improved reading experience on the iPad, but that doesn’t mean people will be excited to do it. A lot of businesses’ wishful iPad pricing adds up to costs that are likely to cause consumer sticker shock. The iPad hasn’t been out a week, and already app prices are getting a bit out of control:

IMages: NBC, Engadget