As Dick Parsons, the CEO of Time-Warner recently reflected, Murdoch’s acquisition of MySpace “appears to have been a masterstroke”. Well… good to know that he is taking a similar positive view of the deal as me. My positive outlook reflected my high enthusiasm about social networking and social media in general, which, as those close to me know, I saw coming from a mile away.
I must admit, however, that I did *not* see the blogosphere coming. The rapid emergence and popularity of blogs most definitely took me by surprise (which is one of the key reasons I decided to blog for GigaOM (thanks Om!)… I needed to understand the phenomenon from the inside, and I *get it* now). I bring all this up because I believe the blogosphere is about to come face-to-face with the “social media mogul” himself… Rupert Murdoch.
20 years ago, Murdoch saved the British newspaper industry. In an incident known as the “Wapping Dispute“, Murdoch waged war against the print labor unions and forced them to accept less labor-intensive computerized printing technologies. Wapping proved to be one of worst industrial strikes in modern history, yet at the end, Murdoch’s aggressiveness and foresight saved the newspapers from a death spiral caused by technological obsolescence.
Today, the newspaper industry is again facing many challenges and possible extinction. The fiscal problems plaguing iconic brands like the New York Times and the Tribune Company are well documented. But the problem this time is not offset-lithography… it’s the rise of the blogosphere. Simply put, it’s centralized content production and distribution vs. decentralized people media. I have now learned, first hand, how blogging competes with traditional newsprint reporting and publishing.
In a similar vein, Murdoch has learned about the power of people generating content through his ownership of MySpace. Ross Levinsohn, the head of Fox Interactive Media, said precisely that during one of the panel sessions at this week’s OMMA conference… where he states “if Rupert Murdoch can give up control, I think anybody can give up control… if they don’t let the consumers participate in it, it’s not going to go anywhere” (hat tip to I Want Media).
So where does all this leave us? If I was a betting man, I’m going to bet that Murdoch’s next move is to acquire a blogging platform… either Six Apart (which owns Moveable Type, TypePad, LiveJournal, and Vox) or Automattic (owner of WordPress). And if he does, it can prove to be his 21st century “Wapping”.