MediaFile

Murdoch says no to U.S. government newspaper bailout

News Corp Chief Executive and newspaper empire builder Rupert Murdoch showed up on the Fox Business Network (which he owns) on Thursday to talk about the future, or lack thereof, of newspapers.

Two key points: News Corp’s papers, which in the United States include The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and the Ottaway chain of local dailies, will not take government money to help them stay afloat; and there is private financing for media companies out there. Here’s what Murdoch said on those topics, and more. (Thanks for FBN for this transcript)

On how newspapers will make money in the future
“Newspapers will make money the way we make it now – from our readers, from our advertisers. Newspapers may look very different. Instead of an analog product printed on paper, you may get it on a panel which will be mobile, which will receive the whole newspaper over the air, and be updated every hour or two. All of these things are possible and some of the greatest electronics companies in the world are working on this right now. I think it’s two or three years away before they get introduced in a big way and then it will probably take ten to fifteen years for the public to swing over.” …

On the future of newspapers on the Web:
“You’re going to have to pay for your favorite newspaper on the Web. [Free content online]…that’s going to stop. Newspapers will be selling subscriptions on the Web. The whole thing [premium content] will be there. The Web as it is today will be vastly improved, they’ll be much in them and you’ll pay for them.

“But there will be other platforms…You’ll be able to get the guts or the main headlines and alerts and everything on your Blackberry, your Palm or whatever, all day long. People need news. Communities live on news about their communities to be able to live and enjoy the world.”

Murdoch toys with idea of Kindle-like reader

Where will the mogul strike next? Doesn’t seem like he’s yearning right now for The New York Times, which is doing battle with a guild that doesn’t want to give up lifetime job guarantees of 190-odd Boston Globe staffers.

Instead, New York Post’s Peter Lauria reports, Rupert Murdoch has set his sights on building a Kindle-like device that will deliver content from News Corp publications like The Wall Street Journal, The Times of London and the NY Post. The device would also offer content from TV shows and movies that come from the News Corp stable. Murdoch sees it as a way of charging for content on the Web, rather than giving it away free as much of the publishing industry has (which, needless to say, is a big source of current troubles).

The global team assembled for this purpose consists of Murdoch himself, son James, Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton and News Corp’s new chief of digital operations, Jonathan Miller, the paper says.

MySpace friends ex-Facebooker

It looks like MySpace is getting closer to raiding the competition — at least, one step removed. Facebook veteran Owen Van Natta is expected to be named as the new head of News Corp’s MySpace social network on Friday.

The appointment comes after Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate said earlier this week that MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe would not renew his CEO contract, which expires in the fall. News Corp also said  co-founder Tom Anderson was in talks about taking a new role in the company.

Facebook has already surpassed MySpace in worldwide users. Even though Van Natta, like other high-profile Facebook executives, had left the company already, the question now is whether he can sprinkle some much-needed fairy dust on MySpace that will help it improve its flagging performance. In one sense, this might be starting already. Kara Swisher, proprietor of the Boomtown blog at the News Corp/Dow Jones-owned All Things Digital, reports that part of Van Natta’s remit will be to recruit more new talent to MySpace.

Comcast CEO Roberts makes the Top 15 on pay

While we were at The Cable Show last week, Comcast filed a documents with securities regulators detailing its 2008 executive compensation. The filing showed that Chief Executive Brian Roberts received $23.7 million in 2008 up from $20.8 million in 2007 but below his 2006 payout of $26 million.

Roberts, as the AP points out, has long been criticized by shareholders for the size of his pay package. His increase comes after Comcast shares fell some 7.6 percent in the calendar year 2008, but this outperformed most of the major market indexes, which fell between 30 to 45 percent last year.

In February Roberts and other executives agreed to forgo a pay rise in 2009 and cut back on personal benefits, including a previous agreement which had guaranteed the payment of his base salary and cash bonus to his heirs for up to five years after his death — a so called ‘golden coffin’ package.

Could Google buy Twitter? Ask Arrington, then ask Swisher

******We sprinkled updates into this blog. We’re highlighting them like this.******Thanks to TechCrunch, U.S. tech reporters are about to spend another weekend working instead of playing. UPDATE: Or maybe Kara Swisher at All Things D will save them!******Two sources told proprietor Michael Arrington that Google “is in late stage negotiations to acquire Twitter.” He wrote:***

We don’t know the price but can assume its well, well north of the $250 million valuation that they saw in their recent funding.

***

Twitter turned down an offer to be bought by Facebook just a few months ago for half a billion dollars, although that was based partially on overvalued Facebook stock. Google would be paying in cash and/or publicly valued stock, which is equivalent to cash. So whatever the final acquisition value might be, it can’t be compared apples-to-apples with the Facebook deal.

***

Why would Google want Twitter? We’ve been arguing for some time that Twitter’s real value is in search. It holds the keys to the best real time database and search engine on the Internet, and Google doesn’t even have a horse in the game.

More work, same pay at New York Post

New York Post newsroom staff are grumbling about a new work rule that essentially pays them the same amount of money, but for more work.

Two sources told MediaFile that Rupert Murdoch’s daily tabloid has told reporters that their work week is now 40 hours long. That’s no big deal to most working stiffs, but that’s a change from the earlier 37-1/2 hours.

The upshot is that overtime pay, which once started as the clock struck 37-1/2, now doesn’t begin until 2-1/2 hours later. As many journalists know, it’s hard to break news on your beat unless you’re willing to put up with stories — and events — that happen at any time and don’t fit well into normal working hours. That said, journalists who don’t like this move say it amounts to a 6 percent pay cut because it’s more work for the same pay.

Murdoch’s paper love: LA Times next?

Rumors of Rupert Murdoch’s interest in buying The New York Times have been swirling for ages, and maybe the media mogul would have snapped up the venerable paper by now were it not for the Sulzbergers.

But there’s always a consolation prize, and this one’s from the West Coast. Variety writes that Murdoch could be interested in buying The Los Angeles Times and has been talking “fervently” about making a play for the paper.

And that would surely be an easier purchase to pull off, given that LA Times’ owner Tribune is in the middle of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Maybe Sam Zell, who owns Tribune, would be more willing to sell the paper to a fellow mogul than the Sulzbergers.

Murdoch daughter disses dad

Courtesy of Richard Siklos, Fortune’s media writer extraordinaire, who just posted this on the website on Tuesday:

“In the weeks that Rupert Murdoch was locked in unsuccessful negotiations to keep his longtime No. 2 at News Corp., the media baron also had to accept his daughter Elisabeth’s decision to turn down a spot on the company’s board, sources told Fortune.”

That’s exciting, from a soap-opera-meets-financial-news angle, because Murdoch is letting longtime right-hand man Peter Chernin leave the company, in part because the media baron has a sense of familial duty. That is to say, many people say he wants his children to take over the company. The most likely choice is his son James, 36, who is active in the company’s UK and Asian operations. Having said that, Elisabeth is no slouch in the media department.

Chernin parachutes, Murdoch keeps flying

News Corp President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin’s perks after he leaves News Corp at the end of June are basic compared with some legendary golden parachutes, though they’re still worth more money than I make in a year. Or 10 years for that matter.

In addition to his Fox studios production deal, Chernin’s creature comforts include 50 hours on News Corp’s jet ($1.65 million value), corporate car ($210,000 value) and possibly personal secretary services ($1.05 million value). See the proxy statement for more details.

That might not send the image of a cost-cutting corporate culture at a time when News Corp’s stock is down 70 percent and the bottom looks further away as its most can-do executive quits. Then again, maybe Chernin’s doing the right thing, all things considered. Check out this little-noticed excerpt from Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch’s memo to employees:

Rough day for Murdoch. Or is it?

One has to wonder what today is like for a media chief as mogul-y as Rupert Murdoch, whose

News Corp has its hands in everything from publishing and newspapers to Internet, TV and movies. Today is the first day after News Corp President and COO Peter Chernin — who has been a critical force in News Corp’s success in movies and TV — said he was planning to leave the executive suite in June to make movies.

That leaves the 77-year-old Murdoch without his well-regarded No. 2 at a time when all media players are struggling with a dramatic advertising slowdown. That’s not good, right?