Murdoch's Google News-killer is dead

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has abandoned its eagerly awaited online news aggregation platform, code-named 'Project Alesia', just weeks before it was due to launch.

The UK-based project was to aggregate content from British subsidiary News International's newspapers - The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and News of the World, together with selected media from other sources.

Alesia was part of a global drive to make content from the company's titles available across a range of platforms, including the iPad and Google's Android OS.

Sources close to the project now say that after 12 months of development, bean-counters at the corporation pulled the plug on the project due to spiralling costs that are believed to have topped £20 million.

More than £1 million in advertising was already thought to have been earmarked to promote the launch before the project was canned.

Named after a famously bloody Roman siege, the launch was to be News Corporation's response to what it perceived as the abuse of its content by Google News.

The top-secret project, believed to have been led by Ian Clark, formerly managing director of failed Murdoch-owned freebie title thelondonpaper, as well as News Corporation's digital head, Johnny Kaldor.

Some of Alesia's 100 staff, many of whom have been beavering away on the project for up to a year in an office on London's Grays Inn Road, may be absorbed into other parts of News Corporation's machine - but some redundancies are expected.

An article on advertising news site Media Week reports that sources at News International has rejected suggestions that other media companies were unwilling to throw their lot in which the project, insisting that the decision to close it was entirely down to concerns over costs.

With the project virtually completed, News Corporation may be looking to recoup some of its outlay by flogging off some of the technology behind it.

The ditching of Project Alesia follows intense speculation over the fate of News Corporation's decision to hide online newspapers The Times, The Sunday Times and, more recently, News of the World, behind a paywall, with some commentators suggesting that site visits had plummeted since the system was imposed in July.