Will the ad-revenue-generating power of TV vs. online advertising increase Rupert Murdoch’s influence over the national conversation? 8/24/08Posted by Steve Boriss in AP, Murdoch, NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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We have another indication, as if we needed another, that online ads do not attract ad revenues like their counterparts in television. Based on Olympics ad spending, TV video ads may be 100x more valued by advertisers than online video ads. Video ad spending on NBCOlympics.com was only $5.75 million, just 1.1% of the $505 million total for video ad spending. A crude comparison, but still…
In the national news supply chain, original content driving the national conversation has originated from the newspaper side — AP, NY Times, and Washington Post — which are converging to the low revenue world of online advertising. On the other hand, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, unlike those venerable institutions, can draw upon the resources of News Corporation’s high revenue-generating TV properties. More revenues, more original reporting, more control over the national conversation. Look for Murdoch’s influence over our top stories to increase.
Murdoch repeats strategy: WSJ’s “objective of being objective” mirrors Fox’s “fair and balanced” 7/7/08Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch, NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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In the cable news wars, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox New Channel famously launched while claiming to be “fair and balanced,” a none-too-subtle slam against CNN, which conservative viewers suspected of liberal bias. The strategy worked, splitting the market between left and right, and perhaps also pulling-in some liberal viewers who had no objection to news being fair and balanced.
Now it appears that Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal might be attempting a similar ploy as it positions itself as a rival to the New York Times for U.S. and international coverage. New Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson says that his journalists “have the objective of being objective,” adding “At The New York Times, you have news with a skew. Or a skew with news.” Not quite ready for an advertising jingle, but you get the point. The WSJ plans to seize the high ground for fairness and balance, shoving the NY Times into left field. Or at least, that’s Murdoch’s objective.
Murdoch is not a “conservative” or “political opportunist,” but a “businessman.” And that’s good for news consumers. 5/6/08Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch.
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While News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch is disdained by many journalists, the names he is called often reveal more about his accusers than about Murdoch himself. He is called a “conservative” by those who are liberal. He is accused of wanting to tart-up the Wall Street Journal with London Sun’s “Page 3” girls by those who insist newspapers must be serious and humorless. We are warned about the dangers of Murdoch controlling editorial opinions among those who believe journalists must never defer to their business owners.
When Slate’s Jack Shafer denied Murdoch was a conservative, but a political opportunist instead, he had it almost exactly right. Yes, Murdoch tends to support candidates of any party if he thinks they might win — or hedge his bets in case they do. But, he’s simply acting as a “businessman” in these instances, and it is the fault of politicians, and not Murdoch, if someone like Murdoch feels he has to play this game in order to prevent government from infringing on his business plans. Actually, Murdoch’s cold, calculating, profit-minded, dispassionate political behavior is a plus for consumers. He is focusing on giving consumers what they want, not what politicians or journalists want. Why would anyone have a problem with that?
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OK, Mr. Murdoch, we get it. We have now noticed that the only newspapers you own in the U.S. are based in the NY area — the NY Post, the Wall Street Journal, soon Long Island’s Newsday, and various local newspapers in the 5 boroughs and nearby suburbs. Within the NY area, your papers appeal to every segmentable newspaper audience there is — the upscale and the downscale, the national and the hyperlocal, general news and business news, the urban and the suburban. Why are you not interested in being in the newspaper business in the nation’s center of power, Washington, DC? Why were you not interested in acquiring the Tribune to compete in the major Chicago and Los Angeles markets? For that matter, why not Peoria?
Since Rupert Murdoch could not be reached for comment (mostly because I don’t have his phone number), let me offer some possibilities. First, he might believe there is business value in controlling the “national conversation” and he needs to wrest it away from the NY Times. Each night the Times coordinates these top stories with the Washington Post — stories which are then slavishly followed by the TV networks, metro dailies, and ultimately local TV stations. Second, he might believe that of the nation’s two biggest news centers, NY generates more of the type of news that consumers want that Modern Journalism elites have denied them. While DC provides government news, NY is a better supplier of news of business, fashion, arts, entertainment, sports — even of the sensational and bizarre. Third, he needs to have leverage over government officials who might envy his power and try to regulate-away his ability to expand. Controlling what the national conversation has to say about them should do the trick. So, start spreading the news — Murdoch wants to be king of the hill, top of the heap. And as for New York — if he can make it there, he’ll make it everywhere.
To everything there is a season, in newspapers as under heaven. But only one of 3 major players is in sync. 3/12/08Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch, Sulzberger, Zell.
Whether you find worldly wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes or a 60’s song by The Byrds, you know that to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to plant, a time to reap. But, the 3 major players in the newspaper industry can’t seem to agree on which season we are in.
Rupert Murdoch, new owner of the Wall Street Journal, believes this is a time to plant — in business terms a time for marketing and investment. He is moving quickly to give readers more of the political, economic, cultural, and sports news they have previously had to look elsewhere to get. He is expanding his Washington bureau.
Sam Zell, new owner of the Tribune, believes this is a time to reap — in business terms a time for finance and accounting. He is putting heavy demands on his media properties to increase their profits, to help pay off his debt and to stabilize cash flow. He is shrinking his Washington bureau.
The Sulzberger family, long-time owners of the New York Times, believe this is a time to keep — in business terms, a time for operations and quality control. They are grasping to hold onto the original formula they used during their time to build-up: objectivity, investigative journalism, and an authoritative tone. They would like to be able to maintain staffing at their Washington bureau.
But with audiences now shrinking, Murdoch is the only one who is right — it is indeed a time for marketing and investment. And with Old Media journalism increasingly rejected by audiences, the NY Times could not be more wrong. For those practicing this type of journalism, at best it is a time to cast away stones. At worst, and more realistically, it is a time to die.
Rupert Murdoch: The Future of News Person of the Year. A man who means business in an industry that hasn’t 12/31/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch.
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The person who, for better or worse, did the most to influence the future of news in 2007 was Rupert Murdoch, easily outdistancing Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos and Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, who tied for second place. Following his Fox News Channel’s successful dethroning of CNN as the leading cable news channel, his newly-acquired Wall Street Journal is now poised to take-on the venerable and vulnerable NY Times for control of the misnamed “national conversation” — the list of top national stories that is actually determined jointly by the Times and Washington Post each night in a questionable, front-page-coordinating phone call.
Hopelessly misunderstood as a partisan, Murdoch is actually a profit-driven parser of audiences, finding opportunities in under-served media markets, such as conservatives and those uncomfortable with the government=good business=bad mainstream media mantra. At the same time, he punctures the self-delusions of journalists, reminding them they are employees of businesses, not squatters on a mythical fourth estate.
While Murdoch points to a new direction in mass media, DailyKos and TechCrunch serve as successful examples and leading indicators of the highly-fragmented “multitude media” of our future. DailyKos is a “back to the future” representation of our partisan media, its past and its future. TechCrunch demonstrates that providing news for specialized news communities can be very profitable. No doubt, the year 2008 will bring pain to many in the industry, but the good news is that the best news still lies ahead. I would like to wish my readers and their families a Happy News Year!
Rupert Murdoch is too savvy, shrewd, engaged, and competitive for me to take this Politico article at face value. For one year, the editor of Murdoch’s Weekly Standard magazine, conservative Bill Kristol, will be writing a weekly column for the New York Times — at the same time Murdoch’s newly-acquired Wall Street Journal (WSJ) will be trying to sink the Times in head-to-head competition. NY Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal sounds sincere when he hails Bill Kristol as a man he respects intellectually and personally, and whose election season column will provide opposing views that Times readers will appreciate. But if Kristol’s column will be so good for the Times, why would Murdoch allow it? Here are two possible reasons.
First, Murdoch knows that the sound of Kristol’s name is like fingernails against a chalkboard to those with positions to the left of the center-left Times, and might alienate those Times readers. They will resent that a platform has been given to the genial, charming, and sensible face at ground zero of the “neo-conservatism” movement that they vilify. Many already suspect that the Times is actually right-wing, having accepted the government’s WMD rationale for the Iraq war. Kristol’s appointment may put them over the top, as it did The Nation’s Katha Pollitt, who pleaded “just shoot me.”
Second, Murdoch may understand Times readers better than the Times does, recognizing it is contrary to human nature for audiences to enjoy columns written by those with whom they disagree. When Murdoch pairs conservative Sean Hannity with liberal Alan Colmes on the same Fox News Channel show, he knows he is merely entertaining conservatives by giving them an opportunity to watch the mainstream media’s center-left views, which they find irritating and unavoidable, get smacked-down by their own worldviews. But for Times readers who can easily avoid daily exposure to conservative views, Bill Kristol will not only seem wrong, but also selfish, mean-spirited, and morally deficient. This Christmas, Murdoch gave the NY Times a gift worse than a lump of coal — he gave them a Trojan Horse.
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Murdoch’s recent Wall Street Journal acquisition and Fox Business Channel launch have set him apart from his competitors. He continues to drive full speed ahead into markets that others see as declining, if not dying. This week we saw it again when Murdoch’s U.K. publishing arm, News International, invested in an online search engine specially designed for real estate. Ostensibly, this move is designed to catch survival-critical advertising revenues that newspapers now seem destined to lose, and drag them over to an online news operation.
Meanwhile, it seems like every mainstream outlet has shifted into reverse. The Washington Post decided years ago that the newspaper business was hopeless, and with investor Warren Buffet’s help diversified so much into education, broadcasting, and cable that it can now afford to dump the paper entirely. Media companies Belo and E.W. Scripps are splitting-away their newspaper publishing arms from their other businesses, ready for possible divestitures. Knight-Ridder and the Tribune Company have already bailed.
Which leaves the NY Times as Chicken-Little watching the sky fall. All her eggs are still in the same newspaper basket, as the Fox’s NY Post and Wall Street Journal loiter in the same NYC market, licking their chops. Times publisher Sulzberger is in a “Pinch,” and it may be too late to fly the coop.
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As you will read, Murdoch’s methods will be simple and proven, as he goes against competitors whose biggest enemies are themselves. As a serious businessman who defines his trade as “news” and his goal as making a profit, he strangely finds himself all alone in an industry where everyone else seems to have better things to do. His boldest gambit will be to replace the existing news distribution supply chain with his own, placing us in an environment where we can get news of everything from the small (family, friends, communities) to the large (the world) without ever leaving the well-advertised confines of News Corporation properties. And somehow, we will be smiling.
NY Times provides the wrong definition of “competition” in editorial about Murdoch acquisition. They are about to be educated. 8/2/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch, NY Times, Wall Street Journal.
In a puzzling editorial today headlined “Notes About Competition,” the NY Times editorial board bemoans Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) as an event that will somehow reduce competition. They mourn the loss of the old WSJ, which they claim was a “responsible and challenging competitor,” then pine for the good old days when “formerly formidable competitors” like the Los Angeles Times had larger staffs and fuller national and foreign coverage.
Perhaps you might consider the old WSJ and LA Times to be the NY Times’ “competitors” if you lived within the bubble inhabited by newspaper-owning families like the NY Times’ Sulzbergers, the LA Times’ Chandlers, and the WSJ’s Bancrofts. Perhaps they see the newspaper business as a jolly-good sport in which each strives to achieve their personal bests in their game of choice.
But in the real world, competition means only one thing — winning over customers and maximizing profits at the expense of others in head-to-head competition — same geographic market, same audience, equivalent product. Maybe that’s why the NY Times has not seemed to notice, for instance, that Rupert Murdoch has already been winning in competition against the NY Times, with Murdoch’s NY Post now with a NYC-area circulation of 725K compared to just 5-600K for the Times. But at this late stage, as Murdoch prepares to steer the ship of the WSJ onto a collision course with the NY Times, the editorial board might be better-off grabbing a life-raft rather than a dictionary.
Murdoch to use WSJ to split newspaper market into left-right, just as he did with Fox on cable 7/31/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch, Wall Street Journal.
Remember back in the 1990’s when CNN owned cable TV news, and was the undisputed, sole provider of objective, around-the-clock, in-depth, authoritative coverage? No one would have thought there would even be an opening for a #2 channel, much less one that could challenge CNN head-on. But, Rupert Murdoch realized that Rush Limbaugh and talk radio had generated an audience of dissatisfied listeners who were convinced that CNN had a liberal slant. So, using those listeners as a beachhead, he launched Fox, then broadened the audience beyond the conservative base by promoting “fair and balanced” coverage, hiring a stable of strong, charismatic, diverse, and stunningly attractive talent, and weaving-in the sensational stories that Old Media refused to touch. Now cable news is bi-polar, with Fox on the right and the smaller CNN on the left.
Now, fast-forward to 2007 when two newspapers, the NY Times and Washington Post, working as a close-knit team that even swaps front pages each night before publication, are the undisputed authoritative leaders in newspapers and the creators of the “national conversation.” Almost no one thinks that anyone could take them on. This time, Murdoch can draw from talk radio and Fox News audiences that are dissatisfied, convinced that these papers have a liberal slant. Also this time, he owns the WSJ, a going concern with a respected brand name, and a base of conservative readers. Within 5 years, national newspapers will be bi-polar, with the WSJ on the right and the smaller NY Times and Washington Post on the left. Just watch, as history — and Rupert Murdoch — repeat themselves.
The Gray Lady has fallen and she can’t get up, as Murdoch comes in for the kill on the NY Times with hyperlocal news 7/3/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch, NY Post, NY Times.
As the days pass, it is becoming clearer and clearer that Rupert Murdoch sees blood in the water at the NY Times (NYT) and he is coming in for the kill. With a stock price half of what it was 5 years ago, classified ad revenues down 13%, retail ad revenues down 15%, and a Morgan Stanley-led stockholder revolt on its hands, the Gray Lady has fallen and it looks like she can’t get up. The damage that Murdoch’s NY Post has inflicted on the NYT is often overlooked because the Post’s 725K circulation (+8%) seems to be dwarfed by the NYT’s much larger 1,120K circ (-2%). But when you consider that about half of the Times’ circulation is outside the NY area, it becomes clear that the NY Post has a big lead in the geographic area that matters most to advertisers and profits. Not that Murdoch is keeping his intentions secret — he said last week “the New York Times [has] got the only position as a national elitist general-interest paper…It has a huge influence. And we’d love to challenge it.”
Now, Murdoch is hitting the Times when it’s down by getting a jump on hyperlocal news, which ultimately may be the only thing left for metro dailies to grab onto to survive. His purchase of two more sub-metro weeklies now gives him hyperlocal resources in 3 of the City’s 5 boroughs, as reported by the NYT itself. This is happening at the same time the NYT is launching its hyperlocally-misguided City Room, a centralized operation that is exactly the opposite of the decentralized operations that will be required to provide hyperlocal news. Unless dramatic changes happen soon, the country’s “Paper of Record” might eventually not be worth much more than the value of its prestigious brand name.
Murdoch has been bringing back the lost art of market segmentation to news. And this time, it may be about the Times. 6/28/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Market segmentation, Murdoch, NY Times.
An excellent interview in Time magazine suggests that Rupert Murdoch’s entire schtick may be about returning to the market segmentation practices of newspapers of the 19th century. Back then, there were political newspapers for readers who particularly enjoyed politics, and mercantile papers for the more business-minded. At various times, there were separate papers for Democrats, Republicans, Whigs, and Federalists. For the downscale, there was the “Penny Press” (literally 1¢ at newsstands) filled with stories focusing on crime, sex, human interest, and resentment of the rich. For the “respectable public,” there was less titillating news of business and government.
But, the 20th century Modern Journalism movement changed all that. Suddenly we were told that the only news really worth reporting was news of government. That news was to be about serious matters only, told in a serious way. That opinion was a contaminant that had to be surgically removed and isolated from facts by professional journalists. That it was possible to identify objectively a handful of news stories from among the infinite number available and present them as “the national conversation.”
Rupert Murdoch has been having none of that. He bought tabloids in London and New York and developed them to appeal even more to their relatively downscale audiences. He bought the respectable Times of London and increased its appeal to an upscale audience. He saw an opening in cable TV and developed a news channel that appealed to an under-served conservative audience.
And now you can almost hear the market segmentation gears turning in his head when he says “the New York Times [has] got the only position as a national elitist general-interest paper…It has a huge influence. And we’d love to challenge it.” How would he do this with a property like the Wall Street Journal? By creating more compelling news from the private sector? By appealing to those who tire of the Times’ Upper East Side sensibilities, contempt for the whole idea of classified information, indifference to the survival of Israel, or overkill coverage of “pc” topics like the gender imbalance at the Augusta Country Club? We will likely soon witness a gutsy attempt at “divide and conquer” directed at the NY Times, and Rupert Murdoch is not to be underestimated.
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Today’s NY Times’ hit-piece on Rupert Murdoch missed because they loaded their gun with blanks — weak, insignificant, innuendo-laden, political-insiderish, and just plain boring accusations. But after reading it, one could be forgiven for thinking that Murdoch’s success has had almost nothing to do with his aptitude in running news businesses and everything to do with knowing how to evade the overreaching arms of government — ironically, in a country with a Constitution that clearly states that news is none of the government’s business.
The article starts with his successful effort to keep the government from imposing new limits on local TV ownership, then goes on for pages and pages cataloging the bi-partisan “who’s who” to whom he’s had to suck-up to implement business plans in a “free” marketplace. Then, we come across “for more than 70 years, the federal government has regulated media ownership to protect against any entity gaining too much power over dissemination of information.” And based on this assertion, are we to go along with the Times’ implicit theme that the federal government has been good and Murdoch evil? In fact, the only powerful entity of concern that led the Founding Fathers to write the First Amendment was the federal government. Freedom of the press from…what? The federal government. A NY Times hit-piece on why the federal government was always in Murdoch’s way would have been much more on-target.
Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Yahoo: The final puzzle piece in a daring plan to dominate news in the English-speaking world? 6/20/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch, News Corporation, Yahoo.
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Jeff Jarvis, Staci Kramer, and the Times’ (both here and there) have offered intriguing speculation on why Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Yahoo are suddenly showing an urge to merge. Are we about to watch giants play musical chairs with the very hot search engine, social computing (e.g. MySpace), and widgets businesses?
Actually, I think it’s much bigger than that — possibly something that would change the world as we know it. But to understand it, you have to look at this from the perspective of the power player here, Rupert Murdoch. Over the past few years, he has been slowly but surely collecting all the pieces necessary to dominate the news business in the entire English-speaking world. The News Corporation empire includes newscasters (Fox News Channel, Sky News), newspapers (The Times of London, New York Post, The Sun tabloid), radio news (Fox News Radio), sports and entertainment properties (Fox Sports Net, 20th Century Fox films, Fox Broadcasting), local news (Fox TV affliliates), and social computing news of friends and family (MySpace).
In fact, the only two pieces of the news puzzle that Murdoch is missing are business news, which his bid for Dow Jones would address, and Internet news, where he is weak. Now, look at this list of the top 15 news web sites (scroll down). Where’s Yahoo? Ranked #1. Also, note Yahoo Weather at #6 and Yahoo Local at #14. Where’s News Corporation’s Fox News? Only at #10 behind CNN, MSNBC, the NY Times, Google News…even the Drudge Report. So, a deal with Yahoo can leapfrog Murdoch into the top Internet news slot.
But Murdoch’s plan might even be more clever than that. The backbone of news as we know it is the nationwide network of metro daily newspapers, who collaborate (some would say, “collude”) through the Associated Press (AP) network. They created the not-for-profit AP, they own it, they contribute stories to it. And, they all feed out of the same AP news trough. If the AP did not exist, the reporting costs of these papers might be too high for them to survive.
Now, looking again at the top 15 news sites, where is the AP network of newspapers represented? Actually, it’s at #1 because Yahoo News has a deal with the AP to run their stories. Where else do these AP stories appear in these rankings? Pretty much nowhere. Among the relevant sites that don’t generate most of their own content, Google News draws from a multitude of news providers, and AOL is part of the Time Warner empire that includes CNN. So, if News Corporation replaces AP’s stories on Yahoo with its own, and the Internet becomes the dominant news medium, Murdoch might be able to seize control of the “national conversation” from the AP network of newspapers, and at the same time deal a crushing blow to what has been the backbone of the mainstream media.
Love him or hate him, Rupert Murdoch is a force to be reckoned with. And if he has any peers in the news business (and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. of the New York Times is surely not one of them), I do not know who they are.
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Without a hint of irony, the NY Times scolds Murdoch in a plea to discourage a takeover of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Since in the past 5 years News Corp’s stock price has more than doubled, while the NY Times’ has fallen 46%, it’s hard to take the Times seriously when they express doubt that the WSJ’s “news operation will survive” if News Corp acquires it. And the Times’ accusation that Murdoch “reneged on his vow to leave news operations alone” is ironic since “everyone knows that the influence of Times Publisher and CEO Arthur Sulzberger Jr. extends to selecting not merely the editorial page editor but columnists, political endorsements and, as far as we can tell, even news coverage priorities,” according to the WSJ. Morgan Stanley, which is leading a stockholder revolt to wrest control of the Times from the Sulzberger family, could do worse than to use Jr’s quotes as supporting arguments at the next stockholder meeting.
Prediction: New Fox channel will meet ALL news needs of the business-minded, not the business news needs of ALL 5/17/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Fox business channel, Murdoch, Wall Street Journal.
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The conventional wisdom about Fox’s soon-to-be-launched business channel overlooks the fact that Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch has thrived by defying conventional wisdom. When he launched Fox News, he didn’t introduce a me-too competitor of CNN — he redefined cable news so that audiences now choose their channel by ideology. Similarly, when he launches the Fox business channel, he will not introduce a me-too version of lackluster CNBC, but will reinvent this genre — first on cable, then moving it to its permanent home on the web. Given Murdoch’s recent bid for Dow Jones, my hunch is that he wants to translate the successful formula used by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which provides complete, one-stop-shopping news (business and non-business) to an upscale audience that is attractive to advertisers. One thing that makes this audience’s news interests different is that they are achievers who live their lives in the private sector, and are not as obsessed with the day-to-day workings of the federal government as the mainstream media seems to think we all need to be. Just as the WSJ can serve as the only newspaper its readers read, the Fox business channel will be the only news channel its viewers need. Their non-business news can be readily supplied by Fox News, Fox TV affiliates, and the rest of News Corporation’s news, sports, and entertainment empire. And THAT is the answer to this Fortune Magazine writer’s riddle on how Murdoch can launch this venture “on a shoestring.”
Ron Berryman, who has responsibility for the online strategy of Fox’s local TV affiliates, sure seems impatient these days waiting for his stations to create more original local content. What could Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox be up to? Hmmm. Let’s play out the next 5-15 years. Local newspapers will have moved online, perhaps totally. Web-based TV (IPTV) will have made local TV affiliates obsolete — there no longer being a need for each metro area to have its own local stations to transmit and retransmit broadcast signals that can only be received within about 75 miles. So, former newspapers and former local TV broadcast news will be battling it out head-to-head on the web, one mouse click away from each other.
Now, visit the web sites of your local newspaper and TV affiliates. Chances are, you’ll notice that only one of them is preparing for this competitive environment of the future…that is, if you happen to have a Fox TV affiliate in your town. Newpapers have not invested in video content and generally have crummy web sites. And among the TV affiliates, only Fox can operate its news independently, without guidance or material from the local paper, the NY Times, the Washington Post, or the AP. That’s because only Fox is backed by a corporation that develops its own original and comprehensive content in national and international news, major league sports, and entertainment (business news is coming soon if Fox acquires Dow Jones). Now compare your local Fox affliliate’s web site to those of other Fox affiliates throughout the U.S., and do the same for the network affiliates. Note how only Fox is selling a unified “Fox” brand name, while most of the others are only promoting their stations, using their individual, alphabet-soup call letters as brand names. Note also that Fox is teaching its affiliates how to make money off the web — “Fox on Demand” video downloads generate advertising and fee-based revenue that is shared with affiliates. Sure seems to me that Berryman is whipping his local Foxes to gain an even bigger jump on their hound-like local competitors, who may not even be aware that the horns have sounded and the chase has begun.
Murdoch not a threat to Journalism’s “wall” between editorial pages and news coverage because it has never existed 5/3/07Posted by Steve Boriss in American Journalism Review, Editorial, Journalism, Murdoch, Opinion, Rosenstiel, Wall, Wall Street Journal.
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It was not until legendary journalist Walter Lippmann invented Modern Journalism about 80 years ago that it had ever occurred to anyone that facts and opinions ought to appear in separate sections of a newspaper, much less that it was even possible to separate facts from opinion. After all, of what use are facts without an understanding of their meaning and implications, a.k.a. “opinions”? And, isn’t there an implicit opinion expressed whenever a news outlet selects one of the infinite number of possible stories and gives it the stature of “news”? For years, it has been as if highly regarded journalists such as Tom Rosenstiel (Director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and former chief Congressional correspondent of Newsweek) have been playing mind-games with us, calling our attention to opinions on front pages, but never quite using the term “opinion,” and all the while insisting that newspapers do confine their opinions to editorial pages. For example, in this transcript, Rosenstiel cites his own study showing that 50% of front page NY Times, WaPo, and LA Times stories were “not straight news stories” but were “interpretative, analytical stories of some type or another.” Perpetuating the dogma, the American Journalism Review (AJR) is claiming today, in an article that seems to “borrow” the Barbarian headline of my post from yesterday, that Murdoch’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal would threaten the paper’s wall between its “hard right” editorial pages and its supposedly objective news pages — a difference that the AJR claims has proven that this wall actually exists. Perhaps the AJR should consider the more plausible explanation — that the lack of a difference between every other papers’ supposedly objective news pages and their remarkably compatible editorial pages proves that it doesn’t.
Barbarians at the Gates? Murdoch bid challenges independence of Wall Street Journal staff and all of Journalism 5/2/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Barbarians, Fox News, Independence, Journalism, Murdoch, NY Post, Wall Street Journal, Zell.
The cries from Wall Street Journal staffers have been apocalyptic, warning us of impending doom. Said one, “The [Murdoch-owned] New York Post and Fox News are grotesque, fearsome mutants of what newsrooms should be.” Said one of their unions, “[Murdoch] has shown a willingness to crush quality and independence.” But, who’s to say what a newsroom “should be”? Who has the right to determine the criteria against which “quality” is judged? And, beyond the right each of us has to our own independent thoughts and free speech, why should journalists, any more than the rest of us, be immune from the demands of their customers, the difficulties of getting their voices heard in a crowd, the need to remain competitive, and the pressures of staying in business? The 200 year-old gates that have protected journalists from a harsher world are now rusty — gates that had been constructed mostly from proprietary print/broadcast technology, protective government regulations, and arguably anti-competitive business practices (e.g. membership in the AP cooperative). Seasoned business warriors, like new Chicago Tribune/LA Times owner Sam Zell and Rupert Murdoch, are rattling the gates and demanding to be let in. They come in the name of themselves. But, they also come in the name of dissatisfied news consumers and stockholders everywhere. And ultimately, they will not be denied.