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Say What You Will About Rupert Murdoch . . .

Posted by: Jon Fine on June 28, 2007

… I mean, as we’ve seen, there’s a lot to say about him.

But he is the only guy within the same zip code of CEO pay-grade that’s willing to think out loud about radical notions like the one below, which just came out in Time ‘s cover story about him:

“What if, at the Journal, we spent $100 million a year hiring all the best business journalists in the world? Say 200 of them. And spent some money on establishing the brand but went global — a great, great newspaper with big, iconic names, outstanding writers, reporters, experts. And then you make it free, online only. No printing plants, no paper, no trucks. How long would it take for the advertising to come? It would be successful, it would work and you’d make … a little bit of money. Then again, the Journal and the Times make very little money now.”

Today, the newsroom union at the Journal tells us, a bunch of Journal reporters are skipping work this morning. A statement from the Journal union, the IAPE, says they “want to demonstrate [the] conviction that the Journal’s editorial integrity depends on its continued independence.”

I’m guessing this quote from purportedly pro-Murdoch media commentator Roy Greenslade that appeared in TIme magazine probably won’t make them feel any better:

“At his tabloids, Rupert’s word is treated as the word of God. At his serious papers, there’s much more of a discussion.”

Reader Comments


June 28, 2007 4:09 PM

My first reaction is "Wow, he's thinking ahead" and my second reaction is "No, he's just releasing a press release making himself look better than the competition." The question is, has Murdoch done anything like that in the past or did Fox cancel Arrested Development?

Jeff Milman

July 2, 2007 10:02 AM

June 28, 2007

Dear Jon Fine,

I enjoy your media articles in Biz Week. However, I have failed to find anywhere where you have addressed the future of big media as I foresee it:

1. The reason that Rupert Murdoch is buying the WSJ is its imprimatur for truth and justice. I and millions of others trust the WSJ reporters' facts and their columnists and their editors' outlook. The WSJ is not just a paper product supported by advertising but a vehicle that selects and presents the finest writers, factchecks (usually) and edits to a superior standard. Murdoch wants to raise that standard into an international force of similarly selected writing stars and smart editors. The product will be electronically distributed every way possible: Iphones, Blackberries, a newfangled but far superior Sony Reader (see below), paper etc. Eyeballs will gather advertisers just like Google does now . Annual subscriber fees much like those for the electronic WSJ and Times Select now will also raise sufficient revenues to support a farflung international empire of the best bloggers, writers, editors, stringers and columnists available to all in one fast easy to read place. The WSJ and the NY Times will become, in essence, talent agencies the public trusts. There is no way the LA Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, et. al. can develop a similar level of trust. Perhaps, if properly managed, Google or even Yahoo could develop a similar level of trust with a stable of stars, but it will take them many years of legitimate scoops and Pulitzer prizes to achieve this status.

2. I just cancelled my Sunday-only NY Times subscription after 42 years as first a 7 day subscriber, then for the last two years a Sunday-only subscriber, because, although the computer screen read is far inferior to the paper product, it is tolerable, if only because I can skip quickly over the 85% useless articles by interpreting the headlines alone. If the NY Times would adopt an opening paragraph popup on each headline, I could probably skip 92% of all the articles and columns. There is simply no justification any longer for cutting down millions of trees each year for newsprint. If you and/or your peers are truly environmentalist-minded, you would push for electronic distribution of all media all the time on suitable platforms like the improved Sony Reader described below. I will not be renewing my Biz Week paper product at the end of 2007 either and ditto all other paper mags. I may be a dinosaur in age but not in outlook. This is the best move I (and you) can make immediately to improve the world's resources.

3. Why don't you and any of your peers write about the lameness of the current Sony Reader and the potential for a new kind of media reading (and listening because all writing can now be converted automatically into inflected voice) platform? All it takes is for you and others to excite Steve Jobs' competitive juices once again now that he is finished with the I-Phone. A new Sony Reader should unfold from a 3x4 pocketable poptart into a 9x12 clipboard, display in color, use intuitive buttons or touchscreen prompts for zoom and navigation, and connect to my USB2.0 port or Wi-Fi hotspot for downloading the WSJ and/or NYTimes. With a velcro strap on the back of the clipboard I can read my newfangled Sony Reader on the arm that holds the subway bar or strap.

I look forward to your new articles that address the above topics.

Best regards,

Jeff Milman,

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