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Murdoch and Zell fighting to replace “Modern Journalism” with “Marketplace Journalism” 5/9/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in MarketplaceJournalism.

Today in The New Republic, we got a glimpse of what Rupert Murdoch is up to at the Wall Street Journal. There appears to be a mandate for making the paper more appealing to readers by carrying “more news, shorter stories, snappier headlines, and increasing political and general-interest coverage.” Moreover, the new Publisher, Robert Thomson, seems to be trying to change the inside journalism culture. It has been reported that he “can be disdainful of critiques from the journalistic establishment” and has also “appeared to show disdain for the paper he’s manning now.” This is not something new — we’ve seen this before, from new Tribune owner Sam Zell. He recently barked at a staffer “you’re giving me the classic, what I would call, journalistic arrogance…What I’m interested in is, how can we generate additional interest in our product and additional revenue, so we can make our product better and better.”

Murdoch and Zell are seeking nothing less than a cultural transformation of their media properties. These outlets have been mired in “Modern Journalism’s” belief that what matters most is its own principles — e.g. objectivity, verification, public’s right to know, and independence. Murdoch and Zell want to lead them toward the emerging “Marketplace Journalism,” whose principles include audience satisfaction, advertiser value, and effective competition in the marketplace of ideas. In this regard, Old Media are at a disadvantage from start-ups and other would-be news leaders, who do not necessarily need to shed this now-dysfunctional culture first before moving toward more promising business models. Old Media may now have more money to finance New Media ventures. The question is how much of it will they burn through before putting the appropriate competitive culture in place.


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