Heedless Reporter in Topless Car!
It was too hard to resist slapping up a mutated version of that most classic of tabloid headlines (however senseless) from the New York Post, which is now apparently a sister publication of AllThingsD.com, as the endless quest of media mogul Rupert Murdoch finally ends in his victory.
News Corp. acquired Dow Jones (owner of this site, as well as the flagship Wall Street Journal) for $5 billion and some change after the public hand-wringing of the conflicted Bancroft family finally gave way to financial reality late yesterday.
While the hunt has been a fascinating business story (as well as a family saga of the most classic variety), I am mostly interested to see what the deal will mean to the online future of Dow Jones and the impact it will feel from what most consider to be one of the most digitally fast-forward of traditional media companies.
With the recent merger of Reuters and Thomson (see my post and video with its CEO Tom Glocer here), as well as the continuing migration of all news to digital means of distribution, how News Corp. transforms the powerful but underleveraged Wall Street Journal brand–especially online–should be carefully watched.
Because although all the heat in the noisy deal-making has been on the print paper, the online element might turn out to be the most important part going forward, especially given News Corp.’s ownership of major sites like social-networking powerhouse MySpace and the need to serve audiences–read: young ones–where they now live.
That would be, well, online and in new paradigms.
I happened to be in Manhattan today and did a very short little video of the scene at News Corp.’s HQ below (fyi, I made a tiny error as I blabbed away in the piece–the building is on Sixth Avenue between 47th and 48th Streets, and not 46th and 47th).
Back in May, I wrote a post here about the possible synergies between a product like the Journal and one like MySpace.
Or, as I said then, the lack thereof, calling the giant social network an “uncomfortable partner for Dow Jones,” except possibly for a promising property that could benefit from a MySpace link is an as-yet unnamed personal-finance site aimed at young people that Dow Jones is creating with IAC/InterActiveCorp.
As I noted:
With very different demographics (older and less hip, versus younger and quite trendy, no matter what either company says), little chance for cross-marketing (can you just imagine a “Heard on the Street” page on MySpace?) and even very different advertising prospects, it is not the most useful of links.”
But I am rethinking that analysis now, given the increasing importance of the larger concept of social networking, which is growing into a much larger trend than just a place to trade songs and poke each other.
As sites like Facebook add on third-party applications of all kinds and uses (some more useful than others), it is clear these sites are becoming a new form of dashboard for audiences, or, in the old parlance, the modern desktop.
And quality and branded content, exactly what Dow Jones makes now, is just the kind of thing that should dominate that dashboard in the financial-news sector especially, being delivered in whatever form it needs to shape itself into.
While the successful subscription Wall Street Journal site is certainly impressive in a content-needs-to-be-free paradigm now gripping the Web media world, with a strong growth in paid subscribers, it’s more interesting to see if News Corp. dispenses with that business in favor of one of wider syndication and distribution. That would mean free and ad-supported.
Murdoch has publicly praised the current WSJ.com paid business, but he cannot ignore the success of MySpace and also Facebook (Murdoch, in fact, takes any chance he can to compliment that rival site as evidenced here in a post I did about him kissing up to Mark Zuckerberg).
That’s because the gigantically popular social-networking MySpace site that News Corp. bought in July 2005 for $580 million now looks like the deal of the century.
And it and all of the company’s Internet properties will likely be the growth engine for the company in the years ahead. That means News Corp. will have to keep moving aggressively into this space, even though the stakes remain as risky as ever.
And that means ubiquity, and even promiscuity (no, I am not talking naughty stuff here, so get your mind out of the gutter), is critical here to succeed. So how far and wide News Corp. can take the content of the Journal will be a good sign of the success of the purchase.
There’s a lot of other online stuff that is likely to be interesting to watch out for, such as another recent suggestion by Murdoch to put out an online-only “newspaper” of the finest journalists.
Thus, I suspect the ride will be eventful, if anything. Murdoch has been down this kind of road before (a history of his stubborn persistence in spite of much failure over the years in the digital arena can be found here in a 2001 column I did about News Corp.).
So, hang on, as they say, as it might be a bumpy ride.
(I also reposted an interview I did with News Corp. President and COO Peter Chernin I did at D5 in May in which he talks about digital issues here.)