Six Pixels of Separation - Marketing and Communications Insights Blog and Podcast - By Mitch Joel at Twist Image
Friday, August 7, 2009
The madness of Murdoch
There was a lot of feverish conversation around the watering holes of KL last night over the latest table thumping declaration by News Corp's Rupert Murdoch that enough was enough of the free content ride - online news will cost damn it!
Actually there was less fevered conversation and more me just ear bashing anyone who would listen, in the end I got told to shut my pie hole and go and write it out of my system, so here I am.
If you took the time to read through News Corp's results yesterday you can kind of see why Murdoch's in an angry sweat again - an overall US$200m loss is just part of the story. There was a US$400m plus write down on myspace and a 60% decline in profits in the newspaper division.
It might seem simple to just ask people to pay for online content in much the same way as they pay for a newspaper, but ah, and I hate to be the one to say this, people aren't paying for newspapers anymore.
Murdoch just doesn't seem to get the post newspaper world - and anyone who doesn't agree that that's where we are now, is kindly invited to follow this link, but only if you agree first to come back afterwards. It's a time line of closures of newspapers in the US - check out the carnage around December 2008 to say, July 2009 it's not pretty.
Yep print newspapers are at a pivotal point in their history - it's called death.
But hang on before you sit me in the corner, with the other old media hating, facebook friend whoring, twitter follower harvesting, myspace single launching, Bing V Google war declaring, "OMFG", "WTF", "ROFL", "pwned", "epic photoshop fail" saying, Rick rolling brats consider this, and I hate to come on all "when I was a boy" but, when I was a boy I worked my way up from a copy kid in a newsroom to editing a daily newspaper.
Actually that's not strictly true I actually did some God awful degree, regularly touted as one of Australia's best journalism degrees (note I don't hate the degree or the institution just that people think it takes three years in University classrooms to learn how to write for a living) then landed a fourth year cadet's job on a daily newspaper.
It took approximately six months to unlearn everything I learned at University and then relearn how to become a halfway decent journo (and approximately two weeks to learn how to drink properly - which as everyone knows is the only way you can become a halfway decent journalist).
Why do I tell you the sordid tale of my journalistic apprenticeship? Because it's important that you understand I'm not a new age blog journalist who has a vested interest in the downfall of traditional print media.
I was crazy passionate about newspapers, but hey I got over it.
They were fun, a lot of fun and there is a powerful attraction to being the first to know everything, which is how newspapers used to be. You would impatiently wait for the newspaper every morning to see what happened and to hear how it unfolded. That just doesn't happen anymore and it's what's killing newspapers. The newspaper now, if you do read one, always seems like the last one to know.
Newspapers just aren't fast enough any more which brings us to online. A lot of newspapers do a pretty reasonable job online, but they are still largely written by traditional journalists in a pretty traditional way.
I have to admit I consume a lot of news content everyday and to be honest a reasonable amount of it is Murdoch owned content, but I'd be a sadly uninformed individual if I relied solely on newspapers. In fact a lot of the stories particularly in the online, social media, media, world affairs, entertainment and "shaggy dog" space has usually been broken in the non-traditional media sites and then is picked up - usually about a week later (poor old newspapers). Consider how the Iran elections were reported - most media outlets were reporting using twitter sources.
If all of the Murdoch content disappeared off the face of the planet tomorrow - and lets face it when he starts charging for it, it might as well have disappeared, I guarantee I will be no less informed and neither will you and I certainly won't be paying for it.
Murdoch runs a pretty old fashioned media operation - ie massive and expensive with an army of journalists all sitting between the expensive walls he rents. This makes it a low margin, moving fast towards a no margin, game particularly when you consider bloggers sit in cheap space (usually a bedroom at their Mum's house) and have no overheads and aggregation news sites harness the wisdom of mobs who cost the site nothing. Agreed the content has to come from somewhere but the links to articles on sites like Digg and Reddit are rarely to places like the New York Times or the Asia Wall Street Journal.
Murdoch like many of the other big old fashioned news organisations are trying to re-establish news journalism as a premium product, when the market has already decided it's a commodity and a not particularly difficult to produce commodity.
As someone who has seen the best of both worlds, slogging it out in an old fashioned newsroom, chasing ambulances and competing for the front page, as well as the new news collective where everyone contributes and news is told by the minute not the day, both are exciting, but one's time has past and the other's has arrived.
Swing the gate open, get smarter about ad serving to free content and become part of the search for better ways to monetise content, rather than protecting an outdated model that consumers don't want anymore.
Alas poor newspapers we knew them well, but hey, whatever.