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News Corp.'s Project Alesia Shelved for Now

London-based project will shed most of its freelancers and attempt to move permanent staff to other positions.

LONDON -- News Corp. says it still believes in the notion of aggregating newspaper content and selling it online: problem is, no one else seems to be ready.

That, at least, is the word emanating from the ruins of News’ Project Alesia, the grandly titled and ambitious attempt to build an aggregated news content delivery platform -- which has being mothballed until further notice.

The London-based project currently has around 100 staff, but will shed the majority of its 80-plus freelancers and attempt to move the permanent staff into other posts.

Sources close to the company said the project had been “ahead of its time.”

“If you want to put your publications online you have to do a lot of work to set the price points. We did that work, but other [publications] are not as far on.”

The other publications seem instead to be focused on building their own mobile, internet and iPad models and deals, rather than aggregating to form a content-driven platform, the source said.

 “We still see a future for aggregated news content,” the story said, but acknowledged that while News Corp. had a number of digital projects under development, this one would potentially be “later to market,” assuming it got there at all.

The project intended to launch a range of newspaper content across all digital platforms including the iPad and Google's Android operating system. The platform would have featured News Corp.'s core print titles The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times, The News of The World and The Wall Street Journal with third party content via a monthly subscription.

Named after one of Julius Caesar's greatest military victories over Gaul, the project was reputedly given it its name by James Murdoch.

Coming on the back of the disappointing performance of MySpace, it seems clear that for all its undoubted savvy in newspapers and in television, the lingering doubts over News Corp.’s success-rate in new media remain.