Murdoch Calls Cyber Conference: The Start of Something Big?

20 April 2007

LONDON: The chieftain of Clan Murdoch has commanded some fifty of his senior clansmen from the four corners of his global empire to converge next month on the celebrity-sated district of Carmel, California.

Dominating the agenda at the three-day annual talkfest will be News Corporation's digital future - into which the clan has invested mightily over the past year or two.

Judged by the torrent of dollars lately plowed by NewsCorp into web properties, Rupert Murdoch has undergone a Damascene conversion since 1999 when he famously declared internet investments to be "heavily over-valued and unlikely to meet profit projections" [WARC News: 01-Feb-99].

The 2007 weekend is set to be be somewhat more hard-nosed than past events - at which such Murdoch groupies as Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger and UK premier Tony Blair have performed their party pieces for delegates.

Which, perhaps, is why the response to a request for agenda details was met by a NewsCorp spokesman with resolutely zipped lips.

But to those who scrape a living by putting two and two together (and frequently making five), a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.

  • And a nod was fortuitously delivered by Thursday's online edition of Business Week. It revealed that NewsCorp's current hot cyber-asset MySpace is set to muscle into the news business.

    The news facility - currently in beta test - will scan thousands of online publications and news sites, grouping results by categories such as sports and politics.

    Moreover, it will go one better than Google's news offering by letting its users vote on items, helping to determine what makes the front or section pages.

    According to Dan Strauss of NewsCorp unit Newroo, which helped develop the new facility, MySpace will emulate Google in letting publishers exclude their items from its site if they so wish.

    Strauss also insists that preferential treatment won't be meted out to news items from other NewsCorp properties such as the Fox Network, the New York Post and TV Guide ; BSkyB and The Sun in the UK; and twenty-one Australian newspapers.

    Nonetheless, unlikely though it might be, a smidgen of favoritism from MySpace would do the advertising revenues of such NewsCorp assets - both online and off - no harm whatever.

    So it's possible the project and its worldwide dollar potential might crop up over cocktails in Carmel.

    Data sourced from and Business Week (USA); additional content by WARC staff