The Media They Are A-Changin'

Despite looking like Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the Wall Street Journal was resisted by some high-mindedness of the Bancrofts' preoccupation with editorial integrity at WSJ, green-light for the deal has come as Murdoch agreed to pay an extra $40M in fees for the Family's i-bankers and attorneys. I'm sure we'll learn more about this inter-family affair so let's think for a while what this may mean for the print media landscape.

Background: The US print media alone are a $15B/year business whose overwhelming reliance on advertising has been under attack from:
  • the internet as an alternative source for news and commentary;
  • the internet as support for a better advertising model;
  • the alienation of their readers.
Despite trying consolidation and other "financially-rational" business tools, there was little, if not worse, that the print media could do about the above three developments. In the newspaper business, the last two standing had been The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, until the Bancrofts gave in; Now it's just NYTimes--still resisting Morgan Stanley calls for reorganization and such.

The Murdoch Factor: Rupert Murdoch could be described as the ultimate newspaper man--in addition to being one of the sharpest businessmen in media and media-men in business. Built patiently over decades, by sometimes ignoring the calls from the financial community, his media empire is best positioned to capitalize, on a global scale, on the synergies at the convergence of all media--the internet, satellite, print, etc. Murdoch may well shape the next media business model for he's got the most pieces of this puzzle. In a sense, media will likely become more democratic--easier to access, lower price, wider distribution.

Likely Re-actions: was among the select few internet media properties still charging for access. In case Murdoch decides to make money at the convergence of media and lowers to price, expect FREE online versions of your favorite publications. Foreign Affairs, Atlantic Monthly, NYRB, or Harper's will likely be a cost-free click away from you. Consequently, at least part of the $15Bn will be re-routed via the internet. Online publications will be wide-open to readers-input, through blogs and other MySpace emulating mechanisms. An early taste of the audience-generated opinion and commentary one only has to enter the newly added blog section of NYTimes. The audience generated content at NYTimes tops most contributions of The Times' own staff's through richness of perspectives and intelligence. The online versions of the newspapers will take a life on their own, becoming the loci for extended and virtual town-halls. Unlike their print versions, the content will be rich and continuously re-freshed. You think some about the rest and let us know by way of COMMENTS.

For a view into the failed mechanics of news-media, take a look at Goodbye to Newspapers?