News Corp Buys E-Reader Software Developer, Invests in Journalism Online

News Corp announced Monday that it has purchased the e-reader software business of Skiff from rival publisher Hearst. The company also announced an investment in Journalism Online, whose business is providing online media outlets with the tools to offer paid access to their sites.

Skiff was originally a combination of e-reader device and software platform for publishers to distribute their magazines and newspapers. News Corp bought only the software arm of the company, leaving the device with Hearst. CNet reported that Hearst is still looking for someone to purchase the device, as well.

By purchasing Skiff, News Corp will be able to further develop its own app and related versions of digital versions of its stable of newspapers and magazines, but it could also decide to compete with Apple’s iBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble’s Nook service, etc. by serving as a neutral distribution site for its own and third party properties.

The company has not made clear its plans for Skiff, but its announcement stressed that both the Skiff purchase and Journalism Online were part of its strategy to turn online news distribution into a business into one that can turn a profit.

“Today’s developments underscore News Corporation’s ongoing commitment to create strong business models that support journalism at a time of great change in our industry,” Jon Miller, News Corporation’s Chief Digital Officer, said in a statement. “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.”

News Corp’s head honcho Rupert Murdoch has long talked about the need for online news content to pay for itself, and he has talked about various direct pay models as part of that goal. Both of today’s moves could play a part in that effort.