@ D8: Murdoch: ‘What’s An iPod Without Music?’

It may not qualify as irony but it is a lovely coincidence: the same week that The Times and The Sunday Times go behind a paywall, News Corp (NYSE: NWS) Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch is at a Southern California resort celebrating a franchise that so far doesn’t include subscriptions or paywalls in its model: D: All Things Digital. Dow Jones’ ATD began as an exclusive conference created by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher in 2003 and expanded in 2007 to include ad-supported site allthingsd.com. The franchise predates News Corp.’s purchase of Dow Jones but he seems to love it like it was his own idea, thriving on the mix of tech, media and investment execs that make the annual pilgrimage and using it to highlight the company’s digital accomplishments.

Murdoch opened D8 Tuesday night with a mention of D1 when Steve Jobs talked about how the technology and content creators didn’t understand each other, telling the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) CEO that he doubted that kind of comment would be made again during his D8 interview. (He was reading from paper notes, something that was tweeted around with an almost dismissive glee. From personal experience, using paper on stage is not always a clue about someone’s techno expertise.) Later, in the equivalent of a Sally Fields moment, Murdoch said: “We see those of you on the cutting edge of technology as partners helping us bring our content to more people in ways that fit their particular lifestyles. You understand that you need content too. After all, what’s an iPod without music? A high-definition television without popular shows? An e-reader without news or books?”

iPad apps: The Wall Street Journal iPad app has 10,000 paid subscribers, says Murdoch, (It’s actually a free app that requires a paid subscription through WSJ to get full access.) News Corp.’s properties were well represented with iPad apps when the device launched over the weekend in the UK, Australia and seven other countries: 5,000 have paid for the Times of London app ($17), Murdoch said, and 4,500 have paid $4 for The Australian‘s app (see our full post).

Provocative comments: Murdoch wants credit for the evolution of the content discussion over the past year or so. “It’s fair to say I’ve made a few provocative comments … the debate about content had to change. Users and carriers of content — whether they’re cable companies or aggregators — have recognized the status quo is unsustainable. The profound change means that we, as a creator of content, can welcome innovation rather than wonder if a new website or device would just be an even more efficient way of cybershoplifting.”

His tenor was much less belligerent than some of those earlier comments, reminiscent of the tone Google’s Eric Schmidt used in April when he talked to the Association of News Editors about the greater potential in working together. But I doubt the suspicion is gone.