MediaFile

Rupert Murdoch’s traffic jam

It hasn’t been a great year for Rupert Murdoch. There was the phone-hacking scandal; the Parliamentary committee declaration that he was “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”; The Daily, his iPad publication, laying off a third of its staff over the summer; and a confession that, when it came to MySpace, “we screwed up in every possible way.”

To his credit, Murdoch started making bold bets on the Internet back when other media barons were timid – starting with his purchase of MySpace. The Daily was, at least in theory, an effort to “completely re-imagine our craft,” as Murdoch claimed.

There was also Murdoch’s resistance to Google, a contrarian wager that he could succeed in the Web era without Google’s help. In many ways Google (for better or worse) is the Internet’s most potent market maker, connecting eyeballs with websites as a mighty driver of traffic. But to Murdoch “Don’t Be Evil” Google was evil incarnate. Even though Murdoch has other papers that are indexed (including his U.S. flagship, the Wall Street Journal), he put the Times of London stories completely behind a paywall, blocking them from Google’s spiders, and likened what Google argued was the fair (and mutually beneficial) use of teaser-like snippets as theft.

The strategy: If some have to pay to read the Times, all should have to pay – there should be no exception to the rule. If no one could get anything for free, then they’d be willing (forced) to pay.

Murdoch wanted to be on the Internet, but not of it. He wanted to have it both ways – that’s the Murdoch way.

ESPN’s John Skipper doesn’t see any benefits in new TV models – yet.

ESPN chief John Skipper is happy to talk to any of the so-called new over-the-top Web video players surfing around the fringes of the cable TV business. But he doesn’t see any major deals happening soon — if ever.

In a conversation with Reuters at this year’s cable show, Skipper was blunt about his skepticism over the idea his network –  the best paid in the business according to SNL Kagan data — could work with a new Web partner, a tie-up that may in some way threaten the cozy $100 billion a year cable programmer-distributor relationship which feeds the entire industry.

“We have a significant stake in maintaining the current model. There’s no advantage to us in new models that undercut what we have today,” said Skipper, speaking from the NCTA Cable Show in Boston.

Content everywhere? More like content nowhere

Will Big Media and Big Tech companies ever stop punishing their biggest fans?

Like many people, I woke up yesterday and reached for my iPad for my morning hit of news, entertainment and information, so I could start my day. (And like many, I’m embarrassed to admit it.) Padding to the front door to get a newspaper still sounds more respectable, but my iPad gives me a far more current, rich and satisfying media experience than a still-warm printed Times could ever produce.

Except, lately, it doesn’t. Yesterday morning, I saw the exciting news that Bill Simmons, ESPN’s most popular, profane and controversial writer, had secured an interview with President Obama. Simmons published his interview in podcast, text and video form on Grantland, a longform sports journalism website he founded last year under the ESPN umbrella. I clicked over to the story from my Twitter feed and saw three YouTube excerpts of Simmons with Obama. And that’s all I saw. When I hit play on the videos, I discovered ESPN had set them to be “unavailable” on mobile devices.

Moving on, I tried to read a New York Post headline that also found its way into my Twitter feed. But when I tapped in, the Post webpage that loaded was not the story I wanted to read. Instead it was a notice, which I took as an admonition, that to read New York Post content on an iPad, I would have to download the app, which retails for $1.99.

Cage, Witherspoon feature in box-office battle

Three new movies compete for filmgoers over the long President’s Day weekend in the United States. Nicolas Cage is expected to lead the pack of newcomers with Sony’s 3D action sequel “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.”

Box-office watchers project Friday-through-Monday sales in the United States and Canada could roar to $30 million for the follow-up to the original “Ghost Rider,” released over the same weekend in 2007.

Reese Witherspoon also battles for audiences with 20th Century Fox romantic comedy “This Means War.” Fox sees the story about two CIA agents (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine) trying to win over the same woman bringing in around $14 million over four days. Outside forecasters say it could go a few million higher. The movie pulled in about $1.7 million from Valentine’s Day showings.

How long can Murdoch keep it up on Twitter?

You can say what you like about Rupert Murdoch, and most people have, but he doesn’t do things halfway. His decision to join Twitter on New Year’s eve has set the Twitterati and blogosphere alight not just because the 80-year old media baron joined but because unlike every other CEO or executive who’s joined Twitter, he’s actually expressed some real opinions — some of which are controversial given who he is. When Reuters asked CEOs at its Global Media Summit last fall most felt tweeting wasn’t for them.

In Murdoch’s first 24 hours he started off relatively gently praising an op-ed on Ron Paul in his Wall Street Journal, extolled the benefits of vacation, praised the founder of original founder of his New York Post and championed two of his Fox studios’ movies ‘The Descendants’ and ‘We bought a Zoo’.

He seemed to stick to some sort of neutral script for his first 24 hours but by Monday (Jan 2nd) he had praised President Obama for being “very courageous – and dead right” for his decision on terrorist detention, taken a poke at Glenn Beck’s old Fox News show and effectively endorsed Republican presidential candidate hopeful Rick Santorum: “Only candidate with genuine big vision for the country”. He also called on the “courageous” Obama to address what Murdoch sees as the United States’ biggest crisis, its education policy.

Rupert Murdoch sells A shares, but still in control

Rupert Murdoch (Photo: Reuters)

News Corp  Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch sold off the bulk of his common shareholding according to a regulatory filing but, have no fear the 80 year-old mogul is still very much in charge both in terms of management and financial control.

According to the filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, from Nov 16 to Nov 17 Murdoch sold a total of 3.6 million News Corp A shares for between $16.76 and and $17.07 each for a total value of some $62 million. This means Murdoch”s A shares holding went down to just 381,000 from around 4 million. The elder Murdoch had made the disposals for “financial planning” reasons, according to a source. Back in February Murdoch had bought 2.8 million A shares for between $17.19 to $17.53.

News Corp shares got battered through the summer dropping as much as 25 percent as the parent of Fox, Wall Street Journal and Twentieth Century Fox reeled from an escalating phone hacking scandal at its UK newspaper arm. Murdoch did undertake some relatively minor buying and selling of A shares over the summer.

Murdoch backs progressive U.S. immigration policy

News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch on Thursday said the United States should work harder at making itself a more attractive country for people to emigrate to, as an important route back to enabling economic growth.
Murdoch, 80, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, became a naturalized a U.S. citizen in 1985.

“We have in our DNA the most entrepreneurship,” said Murdoch speaking at a conference on immigration sponsored by the Partnership for New York City and Partnership for a New American Economy. “It’s no accident that people over all over Europe want to come here…and from China. This is a great country.”

Other speakers like New York City Mayor Bloomberg, former Toronto mayor David Miller and New York Times writer Thomas Friedman all supported reforming the immigration system.

from Breakingviews:

Rupert Murdoch’s sham governance on full display

By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Rupert Murdoch still gets a kick out of the “fair and balanced” slogan used by his Fox News channel. He had a good laugh about it only last week at News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting. The results of a vote conducted at that gathering, released Monday, show that everyone’s now equally in on the joke about the company’s shameful corporate governance as they are the conservative bias of his TV news operation.

A majority of stockholders who don’t share the media mogul’s last name snubbed the nomination of his children, James and Lachlan, to the board. Without the support of Rupert’s nearly 40 percent control, three more directors also would have received less than a majority vote, meaning minority holders strongly rebuked a full third of the News Corp board. Strip out another 7 percent backing from Murdoch pal Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, and the sons, each of whom has at one time been considered a potential heir apparent, suffered a roughly two-to-one defeat.

News International loses top PR exec

News Corp exec James Murdoch

If we were at Rupert Murdoch’s daily UK tabloid The Sun we’d probably have a headline today that reads: Will the last person to leave News International please  turn off the lights?

Oh wait, The Sun already did that — but with Britain as its subject.

But we can’t help ourselves as News International executives drop like flies following the terrible phone voicemail hacking scandal which has rocked its parent company News Corp right to its core. Nearly 20 executives or journalists have either resigned, been fired or arrested since the hacking scandal escalated.

The Guardian today broke news that Alice Macandrew, the much liked, much respected senior communications executive at News International handed in her notice after falling out with News International top brass including James Murdoch about the handling of the communications strategy once the proverbial good stuff started to hit the fan this summer. We’ve since confirmed the news from our sources.

UPDATED: News Corp’s new independent director Breyer not so, says investor

Rupert and Wendi Murdoch

Updated with official News Corp response below.

We don’t know what quite to make of this but CtW Investment Group,  a union-affiliated shareholder lobbyist, is raising a stink about News Corp’s new independent director appointment, Accel Partners’ Jim Breyer.

CtW, which claims its affiliations represent pension funds of some 5.5 million Americans or some $200 billion in assets, says Breyer, a venture capitalist best known as an early investor in Facebook, isn’t as independent as the board claims.

In a 1,400-word letter addressed to Viet Dinh, chair of News Corp’s nominating & corporate governance committee,  CtW lists a range of claims about Breyer’s relationships with News Corp, the Murdochs and his record as a director with major names like Wal-Mart and Dell.