MediaFile

Rupert Murdoch’s long crusade to make digital news pay

Rupert MurdochOn the first day of one of my journalism classes, the teacher produced a large metal ring with a short rope fastened to it. The ring was made to be installed in a bull’s nose, he explained; and the rope – called a lead – let you guide him wherever you wanted. The point was clear, if somewhat condescending: Writing a good lead lets the journalist guide the reader around like cattle.

That illustration was a lot more powerful before the web, during an era when closed media like print newspapers and television limited interactivity and left consumers with no choice but to passively accept the news as presented. It doesn’t make sense on the web, where any reader can challenge news content or even become a publisher in a matter of minutes.

Rupert Murdoch still lives in a world of nose rings. The News Corp. CEO has had remarkable success in print and television, but he has stumbled again and again on the web, most notably with the great fizzle that was MySpace. Even today, the company is backing away from Project Alesia, its ambitious plan to create a digital newsstand, after other publishers showed little interest.

But as reports emerge on his latest digital venture – The Daily, a newspaper designed for tablets in general and the iPad in particular – it’s clear that Murdoch isn’t giving up on making digital news work on his terms – that is, in a tidily contained format that demands readers pay for it.

That model is working for the Wall Street Journal, more or less, because the publication is still regarded as a must read for many. But it’s not clear it will work for a publication built from scratch. Initial reactions lean toward skepticism, particularly the $50 annual subscription and the newspaper-like publishing schedule. One terse summary of the reaction: “Wonderful! Slower news — and at a higher price.”

FT hearts tablets so much, it’s spreading the joy among staff

SINGAPORE/It’s not hard to see why newspaper companies, saddled with plunging circulation and big iron presses , are so ecstatic over tablet devices. They bring a form of hope that hasn’t crossed this industry’s path since newspapers dominated classified advertising in the 1980s and 1990s making them fat with revenue and profits. Tablet computers, like Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, just might spark renewed interest in wilted newspapers among consumers and help ease the legacy costs of paper and ink.

Consider News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch who has often expressed his love for the iPad and is busy building a team to produce a tablet-only newspaper The Daily.

The  Financial Times is just as enamored and is spreading the joy offering its employees a nice chunk of change to go toward the purchase of an iPad or other tablet.

Rupert Murdoch on Obama and moose

Ever wonder what News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch thinks about the direction this country is going and how Rupert MurdochPresident Obama is handling his job?  If you were on hand during the opening panel at The New York Forum last night in mid-town Manhattan,  you got an earful.

Some background: The New York Forum is newly formed meeting of business, economic and other luminary minds to address challenges facing the global economy. The Forum plans to present the ideas developed during the conference to the G-20 Summit taking place this Saturday.

Murdoch spoke on a panel made up of a grab-bag of high level executives — Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, real estate magnate Jerry Speyer and Philippe Camus, chairman of Alcatel-Lucent. CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo was on hand to moderate.

Hizzoner Roasts Murdoch

Rupert MurdochLast night, The Wall Street Journal held a party at Gotham Hall for a slew of  media, advertisers, bigwigs (Barry Diller, the cast of In the Heights!) to introduce Greater New York, a souped up metro section that debuted on Monday. Perhaps you have heard of it.

Usually at events like these, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is roped into saying some words about how great the Big Apple is followed by a note of thanks for creating new jobs for the city.  Last night was no exception.

What made Bloomberg’s speech   – really a roast of News Corp Chief Rupert Murdoch – kind of cringe-worthy was the fact that Bloomberg News is a huge competitor of Dow Jones. It’s not entirely clear if Bloomberg was joking when he said that his company had considered purchasing Dow Jones before he held up a mock-up of the Greater New York edition showing the audience how Bloomberg would have gone about things.

Rats! The New York Edition

murdochThis morning New Yorkers finally got a glimpse of The Wall Street Journal’s New York edition, a standalone section that promise to offer an alternative to the coverage of Gotham. “A national newspaper with a New York heart,” was the way Les Hinton, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, described the new edition during a breakfast for advertisers and media this morning.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, today’s “Greater New York” featured 16 pages of full color advertising and editorial touching on topics from the goofy (rats mobbing the tony Upper East Side) to the useful (a potential bounce back in commercial real estate rents).

On the advertising side, Wall Street Journal Chief Revenue Officer Michael Rooney said that the New York edition has netted eight new advertisers, including American Ballet Theatre and Gagosian Gallery.  Keep in mind, though, the paper offered discounts and bundled buys with its sister publication the New York Post for as little as $19,000 for two full page ads to a handful of New York-area local business new to both papers.

Rupert Murdoch, the smartest man in newspapers?

I wrote an analysis on Monday about the possibility that News Corp might take its news search results away from Google and list them on Microsoft’s Bing search engine instead. My conclusion: This one isn’t such a hot idea. Then I read John Gapper’s Financial Times item about how it *could* be a hot idea.

To recap, here’s how it would work.

    Microsoft would pay News Corp for the privilege of being the only search engine to carry results from papers including the New York Post, Wall Street Journal and Times of London. Microsoft thinks it can get more people to use its search engine, drawing them away from Google. News Corp could punish Google, in essence, for making tons of money from the ads it serves alongside news search results. Why, the thinking goes, should Google make a bunch of money off the news that we produce and our newsrooms go starving and our ad sales tank? Other newspaper publishers, if they see Murdoch making it work, might think the same thing and abandon Google en masse.

I and many others wrote that it would be a gamble at best. What if people don’t care that much about news? If the 70 percent of the search market that uses Google discovers  the news is absent, will they switch search engines? Scientists of misanthropy like me say it’s unlikely. If they don’t find it, they won’t seek it.

Gapper at the FT has another way of looking at it:

In effect, (Murdoch) would be swapping his revenue stream from online advertising with a payment from Microsoft for drawing visitors to Bing. That suggests one of two things: either, as a lot of digital evangelists have suggested, he is getting old and does not “get” the internet, or he has looked at the figures and decided that Google traffic is not worth very much. Personally, I think the latter is more plausible. …

Top Rupert Murdoch adviser learns meaning of ‘deadline’

Top Rupert Murdoch adviser Gary Ginsberg is leaving News Corp after 11 years, the company said on Monday.

It must have hit New York Times reporter Tim Arango’s e-mail inbox first (his writeup appeared about five minutes before I got the press release).

Here is what he wrote about Ginsberg, 47, the second senior executive to leave News Corp in recent months, following Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin:

News Corp throws down the Google gauntlet

The war of words between the news media industry and Google makes for a great spectacle, and this week did not disappoint.

According to a report in the Silicon Alley Insider blog, Associated Press CEO Tom Curley is meeting with Google on Friday to press for the creation of a “news registry.” Here’s SAI on the AP’s move:

It hopes such a registry would propel its content to a higher rank in general search than the blogs that the news agency accuses of lifting its content.

Rupert Murdoch: You call it free news, I call you ‘kleptomaniac’

Lest anyone doubt the thrust of Rupert Murdoch’s speech on Thursday (or was it Friday? I’m losing track of time zones) at the World Media Summit in Beijing, it was all about paying for news — as in: You’re going to pay for news, and if you think it shouldn’t cost you anything, you’re a “flat-earther” and a “kleptomaniac.”

For those of you accustomed to the News Corp CEO’s occasional verbal ramblings and hints of ghosts of suggestions, this was a departure. He has gone on the record in great detail about his thoughts regarding paid news, but this is the first time that I recall him using fightin’ words like “flat-earther.”

Murdoch also “urged the Chinese government to take full advantage of the country’s creative potential by opening the door to media competition and ensuring that intellectual property is protected,” according to the speech and the press release, but let’s be clear — the message that resonated was: “You’re going to pay for news as long as we need to pay people to report it.”

NBC, News Corp practice Olympic hedging

Big media executives are developing a new Olympic sport — hedging. Two of the best contenders are NBC-Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch.

Attendees at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York City asked both executives on Tuesday if they were interested in bidding for rights to broadcast the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Both answered the question in ways that sound different until you realize that they actually sound… the same.

Murdoch said “We haven’t thought about it” and concluded with “I wouldn’t think so.” Zucker said, “We’ll have to see what happens. We’re not going to make any decision that doesn’t make business sense. …. The Olympics are an important part of the company and something we’d would like to be involved with if it makes business sense.”