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Will the ad-revenue-generating power of TV vs. online advertising increase Rupert Murdoch’s influence over the national conversation? 8/24/08

Posted 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.

NY Times finally showing some life, reacting to threat by WSJ 7/21/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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It has been months since the Wall Street Journal starting turning its ship in the direction of the New York Times for a direct confrontation. The Journal has been adding Times-like political and lifestyle coverage at a rapid clip, while the Times has seemed to be dead in the water. But perhaps, that’s all about to change.

Advertising Age reports that now the Times is adding Journal-like coverage of the “economy, energy, small business, personal finance and enterprise technology.” Moreover, the Times seems to be upping the ante online by including news aggregated from competitors, a step into the future that the Journal has not yet taken. It’s good for news consumers finally to see some healthy competition — a word that has been relatively absent from the news industry in the last century.

Murdoch repeats strategy: WSJ’s “objective of being objective” mirrors Fox’s “fair and balanced” 7/7/08

Posted 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.

“Journal Women”: You’ve got your own WSJ now, baby! You’ve come a long, long way. 5/22/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Market segmentation, Wall Street Journal.
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The Wall Street Journal is going all packaged goods marketing on us . A new online section called “Journal Women,” is described as “a place where ambitious professional and executive women can come together to read and share ideas on work, family and the intersection of the two.” It will feature a new online column called “Above the Glass” and a blog called “The Juggle.”

By doing this, the WSJ is bringing to the news industry another variation of a technique called “market segmentation,” perfected by the packaged goods industry. A product is split into a line of separate products, each designed to meet the needs of a particular sub-audience better. In a happy ending, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. We saw gender segmentation in the launch of Secret, the deodorant that is purportedly “strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.” And back in the now hard-to-believe days when cigarettes were advertised on TV, and girls-were-girls-and-men-were-men, we all knew Marlboros were for men and Virginia Slims were an historic development for women. Depending on your age, the video below will provide either shock or nostalgia value.

Wall Street Journal is webifying its front page, while the NY Times is not. One reason the WSJ is performing better? 4/28/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes, Uncategorized, Wall Street Journal.
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With NY Times weekday circulation down 4% and the WSJ’s flat-to-up, it begs the question “why?” There’s no better place to start seeking an answer than by examining the front pages of the two papers above the fold. That’s where readers get their first impression and potential newsstand buyers get their final sales pitch. The contrast between the two papers could not be more stark.

Today\'s WSJToday’s WSJ front page above the fold resembles a web site’s home page. There are more than 20 headlines to choose from, all with page numbers that resemble links, directing the reader to jump back and forth between the front page and articles within. This is a paper that wants to spare the reader the trouble of turning through every page hoping to find articles of interest.

Today\'s NYTOn the other hand, today’s NY Times front page above the fold features only 3 stories, and what a bunch of yawners they are! If you don’t happen to be interested in Zimbabwe, stricter rules on mortgages, or a female Muslim educator, you will not be engaged. The way we read news is changing. The WSJ is trying to keep up with it, while the Gray Lady is not. Perhaps the circulation numbers simply tell the tale.

Murdoch’s WSJ poised to take journalism off the NY Times gold standard 3/31/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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“I think American journalism has some soul-searching to do…If there’s a presumption that…’New York Times journalism’ is the pinnacle of our profession, the profession is in some difficulty.” Those are trash-talking fighting words from Robert Thomson, former editor of the Times of London and new publisher of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ). He sees the NY Times as a fool’s gold standard, calling its journalism “self-serving.” He mocks a paper that prizes readers less than prizes from other journalists. That measures an article’s worth by its length. That claims to be objective, but leans left.

But lest you think Thomson is all talk, Murdoch is putting his money where his mouth is. In an industry suffering ongoing layoffs, the WSJ’s newsroom staff is 25% higher than 2 years ago and growing. Political and foreign coverage are expanding. Sports is being added. There’s even a new quarterly magazine on fashion and travel. Gone is the gentleman’s agreement between the paper’s former owners, the Bancroft family, and the NY Times’ Sulzbergers, in which the WSJ settled for the “silver medal” as a second, more business-oriented read “for those who already had digested a local or national newspaper.” Make no mistake, Murdoch is now going for the gold.

Murdoch rapidly transforming the Wall Street Journal into the Fleet Street Journal to compete head-on with the NY Times 2/11/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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Rupert Murdoch is moving quickly to fulfill his pledge that his newly acquired Wall Street Journal will replace the NY Times as the leading “national elitist general-interest paper.” Not surprisingly, his first priority is converting the WSJ from a “business-interest” to a “general-interest” paper, and he has taken at least two steps in that direction. First, he is moving the WSJ offices from the financial district to midtown Manhattan. And second, its news coverage is moving well outside the business realm. Managing editor Marcus Brauchli said, “we believe there is no reason that people should have to go to another news source beyond the Journal to find news of consequence to them in any sphere — politics, economics, even culture and the arts.” Coverage of sports is also in the works.

WSJ Victoria’s SecretBut simply listing the new topics that will be covered understates the fundamental changes Murdoch is now imposing on the WSJ. He is changing its culture from serious, self-important Wall Street to fun, colorful, and competitive Fleet Street — the legendary culture of London’s newspapers that still exists in their tone, if not in their mailing addresses. Headlines and photos are being pumped-up to catch attention on newsstands. And blogger KnifeTricks notes that graphics of stippled, pinstriped executives are giving way to stripped, cleavaged models. Whether or not Murdoch eventually adds a bawdy Page 3, one thing is for certain. This will not be your grandfather’s Wall Street Journal.

Battle for control of the National Conversation: Wall Street Journal on offense, NY Times on defense on business news 12/11/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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We have seen what may be the NY Times’ (NYT) first defensive maneuver to protect itself against Rupert Murdoch’s plan to unseat it as the leading “national elitist general-interest paper.” A few weeks ago, Murdoch’s tag team of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the NY Post took a swipe at the Sunday NYT Magazine’s luxury advertiser revenues by announcing their own glossy weekend magazines. No reaction from the NYT.

This time, Murdoch again went on the offensive by announcing the WSJ would drop its premium services paywall, now offering for free financial news that is sufficiently valuable that many had previously been willing to pay for it. The NYT is responding by making a deal to publish business news from Reuters, a wire service provider of widely available, commodity, one-size-fits-all news that never would have been sufficiently valuable to attract paid subscriptions. The NYT might be credited with recognizing that aggregated news from others will be critical to competing on the Internet. On the other hand, it will also be necessary to offer readers value-added facts and opinions they cannot get anywhere else. The NYT seems to be going through the motions without quite understanding them, and continuing to lose ground — ground they will never make-up unless some day they decide to play offense.

Why Rupert Murdoch will not make the online Wall Street Journal free. And shouldn’t. 8/6/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Wall Street Journal.
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Blogs like Corante are buzzing that new Wall Street Journal (WSJ) owner Rupert Murdoch might want to stop charging subscription fees for its online edition to greatly increase traffic and, presumably, ad revenues. This is such a bad idea, it makes me wonder whether the New Media is catching a case of dinosauritis from Old Media.

Why do so few notice the lesson that Google has taught us about how to make money from the web? They make money not because their site draws so much traffic, but because it draws the right traffic – very specific visitors finely parsed-out among a limitless number of pages defined by each user’s interests as expressed in their keywords. So, Google’s advertisers reach highly segmented audiences consisting only of their best sales prospects – an advertiser’s dream. The online WSJ has a similar gig — every time someone subscribes they might as well be on Google entering keywords that read, “I’ve got extra money to invest, and am willing to pay to receive new information that might change my investment decisions.” For some advertisers, isn’t that a highly segmented audience of tremendously good sales prospects to die for? This all goes away if the online WSJ were to become free.

The power of Old Media was its ability to reach large numbers of relatively undefined prospects through very few channels – terrific if you are a McDonalds’s with everyone as a potential customer. But for all other advertisers, there’s New Media, which has the power to deliver specialized audiences of only the best prospects. “Segmentation” is the new “traffic.”

NY Times provides the wrong definition of “competition” in editorial about Murdoch acquisition. They are about to be educated. 8/2/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch, NY Times, Wall Street Journal.
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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 7/31/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch, Wall Street Journal.
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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.

NY Times laughably projects its own failings onto Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation 6/10/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Murdoch, NY Times, Wall Street Journal.
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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 5/17/07

Posted 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.”

Murdoch not a threat to Journalism’s “wall” between editorial pages and news coverage because it has never existed 5/3/07

Posted 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 5/2/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Barbarians, Fox News, Independence, Journalism, Murdoch, NY Post, Wall Street Journal, Zell.
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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.

Murdoch’s bid for Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones suggests that News Corp, perhaps alone, knows where news is headed 5/1/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Acquisition, Bid, Dow Jones, Murdoch, News Corporation, TimesSelect, Wall Street Journal.
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It’s often said that if railroads had thought they were in the transportation business instead of the railroad business, they might have invented the automobile. Therein lies the difference between the old media and Rupert Murdoch, a man whose company, News Corporation, makes it perfectly clear it is in the news business before you finish reading its name. It isn’t like that at the NY Times, Washington Post, metro dailies, newspaper chains, and the AP, which typically behave as if they are either in the newspaper or journalism business. And broadcast outlets tend to behave as if they are in the entertainment business — which, in fact, they are.

So, it’s not surprising to see that in reacting to Murdoch’s daring bid for Wall Street Journal (WSJ) parent Dow Jones, most in the industry fail to see his move for what it really is. It is much more than a clever way for him to enter the business-news TV channel business, per NY Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman. And it is much, much less than a vote of confidence in other newspapers. Dow Jones owns valuable properties that no other news outlet has, and that will become even more valuable in the future of news. The WSJ creates original content on business and financial matters found nowhere else, while the vast majority of newspapers feed out of the same AP/NYTimes/WaPo news trough as everyone else. The WSJ provides information for the upscale, while all other news outlets scramble for the attention of any news consumer they can find. The WSJ provides just about the only national and international news that impacts individuals directly and personally — financial news. In order for most other news to impact us directly, the stories must be either personal (e.g. social computing) or hyperlocal. The direct, personal impact of its financial news is the main reason why the WSJ has actually succeeded in selling subscriptions to its online news. In contrast, the NY Times smugly moved some of its material behind the “TimesSelect” subscription firewall only to be puzzled by why people won’t pay to read the columns of Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd. The fact of the matter is that Murdoch seems to be the only one to recognize that the Wall Street Journal is just about the only old media property that, in the future of news, will be worth more than just the value of its brand name. (Hat tip: Chris Bachelder)