July 2, 2007

Rupert and Me

…are like night and day. While he is rich and important, I am fighting my little Lego battles with my little business, while he’s known as a right wing five star tycoon, the evil media emperor, people call me a dirty blogger, and last but not least he’s old and ugly. And that is where the two of us start getting similar.

UPDATE: Murdoch completely changed his mind. Now he wants to put a pay wall around his news sites. This makes the following article pretty much useless.

Now, in terms of what to do with newspapers, we are actually twins. I want to point this out, as in the excitement and protest and strikes whether or not he is able to get his claws on the Journal, the big news about what is really planning to do with the Journal gets overheard…

Rupert’s Plan

Check out what he said in his last interview with the Times magazine. Asked, what he’d do with the Wall Street Journal, that he is planning to buy for $5 billion, he said:

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.

So he is going to spend $5 billion to invest another $100 million to hire better journalists and improve the brand of a newspaper that is known for it’s immaculate brand? If that seems absurd, then check out what comes next:

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.”

Rupert is out of his Mind

So he is going to go online only with a classic super serious newspaper? And then open up the only newspaper with a successful online paid subscription model and let it run free? Is he going insane? What did the Time journalist say to that?

In other words, he hasn’t decided what to do with the Journal, beyond investing in a beefed-up Washington bureau and more foreign bureaus, the better to challenge the Times and the Washington Post.

Did the journalist think Murdoch was joking or dreaming or drunk?—I bet Murdoch is dead serious about going online only with the journal:

He notes that the Journal leadership has tried to maintain the print circulation by not giving everything away online, but the percentage of heavily discounted print subscriptions is rising rapidly, a sign of ill health.

Rupert is into Numbers

Murdoch knows that the future of news and with that the future of advertisement is going to be 90% online. He knows it all too well. He doesn’t care about the whiny journalists that love their paper. All he is interested are numbers. And this man knows his numbers:

WSJ.com has more than 900,000 subscribers, making it the largest paid-subscription site on the Web, but less profitable, Murdoch suspects, than it might be with a hybrid model—with free users driving ad sales and premium users willing to pay for high-end content. “But it needs to be studied carefully,” he says.

Well, I am sure that he has his specialists studying the case very carefully. He is not going to throw out five billion dollars on some weird new economic dreaming:

Murdoch sensed the power of the Web not so much as a user but as a businessman who watched the bottom line. In late 2004, he says, he “began to feel the erosion of advertising in print and even the stalling-out of ads on television. So I said, Better pay attention to this.”

Rupert is Paying Attention

Yes, he did pay attention to this and as an economic man he surely knows that free content is neither crazy nor new. Free is what news content always was. The money we used to pay for the newspaper covered the cost for printing, not for writing and editing. If you take out the cost of printing, you’d actually have less running costs to cover. Until now no one could go down that path because people are not ready to pay enough money for online advertising (which is truly absurd, as it’s the most measurable and successful advertisement ever).

Rupert’s not Sentimental

The Wall Street Journal would be a high end economic online newspaper with an explosively growing number of readers (because free works). If the owner of the Wall Street Journal now tells you that your start page banner will cost $50,000 a month, you will pay as you paid for the double page ad in the newspaper.

The people responsible for lowering the quality of journalism is not us. It’s the people with the ad budgets, still investing all that money into dead trees, in a medium that hardly anyone reads, instead of hiring decent online ad agencies to produce good online advertisement. And paying the money it’s worth.

We all hope and pray that he doesn’t get the Journal, but at the same time we know for sure that his plan will be put into practice. If not with the Journal, elsewhere. I know it, because, remember, we’re sort of twins.

UPDATE: In case you haven’t heard: Murdoch got the Wall Street Journal.

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