Free to Be, Rupe and WSJ? Stay Tuned!
Life under media mogul Rupert Murdoch will be full of surprises, at least.
Earlier this week, the News Corp. CEO and chairman said while in Australia that he is leaning toward making The Wall Street Journal’s fee-based Web site free, which appears to be getting some resistance from, well, the execs running the flagship newspaper.
News Corp. bought Dow Jones, owner of the Journal, in a $5.6 billion deal that will close in mid-December.
“We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having 1 million (subscribers), having at least 10 million to 15 million in every corner of the earth,” said Murdoch in a speech to shareholders in Adelaide, voicing a sentiment he has expressed many times. He apparently plans to make up lost subscription fees (of about $50 million to $70 million) via increased ad revenues.
But, only a week before, in a call with analysts, Murdoch appeared to at least be listening to arguments from execs at Dow Jones to consider keeping the fee structure, or part of it, in place.
That was the line, at least, from Michael Rooney, chief revenue officer for Dow Jones consumer media group, in an interview with Editor & Publisher this week about the pending decision.
“It is jumping the gun, people are jumping to conclusions here very quickly,” he said. “Mr. Murdoch would like to have the largest, most robust site in business. Free is a way to look at that. But there is a lot of detail behind that. You have to work that out. You don’t just flip the switch.”
Actually, Murdoch might do exactly that. Several of my sources at News Corp. act as if it is a foregone conclusion to go free, a move they expect him to make just as soon as he gets the keys to the place.
Still, as one longtime laborer under the Murdoch regime noted: “Rupert will do what he wants and will be the only one to decide what to do.”
(Since that’s the case, I will not belabor the point, except to say, BoomTown has been pushing hard for free all along, such as in this post. Also, we are fruitlessly haranguing him about the issue in this picture below, but he is completely ignoring us and only wants to know our secrets for tripping up Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.)