Dow Despatched, Is Murdoch Eying Other Business Media Targets?

14 August 2007

NEW YORK: Obsession or braggadocio? Whichever is the underlying driving force spurring News Corporation chairman/ceo Rupert Murdoch, he clearly enjoys courting the headlines almost as much as owning the papers that print them

Speaking to reporters and analysts after the release of last week's record NewsCorp results, the chieftain of Clan Murdoch let it be known that he is eyeing more big game among the planet's newsgatherers.

He bandied names such as the New York Times, the Financial Times and Reuters - although it is unclear whether his ambitions lie in collecting or demolishing those rival pillars of the business media.

Murdoch-watchers are divided as to what drives the media baron these days. It cannot, they muse, be money, fame or power - with which the clan's redoubts already overflow. Some suggest the 'Macbeth syndrome' as the most likely answer.

As Mac famously conceded: "I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself, and falls on the other."

As to the mogul's intentions for Dow Jones and its prize asset, The Wall Street Journal, he said a lot but revealed little.

Editorial staff cuts are definitely not on the cards: "We're going to be in hiring mode almost immediately," he assured.

NewsCorp expects to invest in Europe and Asia, and to increase coverage of US, international and non-business news, "all to better compete with The New York Times".

Moreover, the WSJ will expand in the UK, the FT's home market where, "we'd take on everybody in terms of supply of real-time news."

But this doesn't mean adoption his usual tactic for wiping out the opposition - a price-based war of attrition. "We're certainly not going to be cutting prices of either advertising or subscriptions," he said.

[Since the mogul wisely never presents his back to anyone, it is not known if his fingers were crossed as he spoke.]

He is also "thinking about" switching the online version of the WSJ from subscription to ad-funded mode. The money men liked the sound of that.

"A free, with global distribution through NewsCorp, would likely see an increase in visitors and ad revenue, potentially siphoning ad dollars from incumbent leading financial sites, Yahoo Finance, MSN Monday and AOL Money & Finance," opined a report from Lehman Brothers.

Murdoch also confirmed that DJ and the WSJ will be key elements in the upcoming 24-hour Fox Business channel - a strategy second-guessed by WARC News exactly one month ago.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff