Rupert Murdoch’s Next Move – Blogging?

17 Comments

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”.

17 Comments

edward denniston

Thankyou John Gilbert, for you reply about Not Yet The Times query. I have a copy of the publication but I was looking for a bit more information it. How may were published? How rare is it? What were the sales numbers?

Edward Denniston

John Gilbert

I still have a copy of this spoof version of the Times. I only recall it was produced during the strike but if you want to know what is in it let me know.
John

edward denniston

QUESTION: Does anyone out there know anything about an edition of the Times called Not Yet The Times, published during the Wapping dispute?

Edward Denniston (Waterford, Ireland)

Colin Mills

I have a copy. Not sure how many more there are out there.

Nick

The whole point of the blogs is that it puts the individual in control. Anyone can be published. Are you an aspiring journalist? Then start a blog, and report on stories yourself. You can even monatize your blog with ads, generating some income.

As traditional newspapers, such as the New York Times, become more corrupted by the far left, more rational-minded people will turn to blogs.

Jonathan

I’m not sure I agree, the value of buying a hugely popular blogging platform such as six apart would be limited. He’d be better buying a well engineered younger less populous platform.

He’d use his market power through newspapers etc to build users quickly enough, why go to the expense of buying a fully populated business which is not growing virally? Buying Myspace made sense since it is growing organically, but if you are just buying technology why buy a populated platform that probably doesn’t contribute much to advertising income, and isn’t growing on its own?

If he wants to talk – I am in Brisbane ;-)

Robert Young

Gustav,

Excellent question.

As I wrote in a prior piece… http://gigaom.com/2006/04/04/socialnets-the-power-of-the-url/, I oftentimes look at the web as a vast collection of URLs that are divided into 2 segments: (1) the URLs used to “broadcast” content, and (2) URLs controlled by people. I believe Murdoch is now trying to capture the major market share of #2… which is how I define social media. So, while buying a blogging search engine could very well be in the cards, it’s probably more strategic for him to acquire a major blogging platform first (and he can then add those URLs to all the MySpace profile URLs).

Hope this also serves to answer some of the other commentor’s questions.

Gustav

If Mr. Murdoch is interested in blogging, might he not be interested in a big blog search engine player (e.g. Technorati) player as well? MySpace is already bigger than all those other businesses you mentioned combined, but it doesn’t have the search, and without that it can’t be the Google of Blogosphere. Thoughts?

Isabel

When I read the RSS headline, I thought Murdoch himself was starting a blog. After the president of Iran, the Carindal of Boston, you never know.

I don’t think buying a blogging platform parallels the Wapping Dispute though. When News Corp built the Wapping printing plant, it already had an army of content producers on staff. But with a SixApart/Automattic, bloggers are customers/community members who can’t necessarily be counted on to support whatever agenda News Corp uses the technology to advance.

carl

Anyone else noticed, all the talk nowadays is about Murdoch, not Gates …?

Having been a print compositor apprentice (after a few months of which I decided to return to college) I have somewhat mixed feelings about the infamous Murdoch and Wapping period of our social history; seems like Murdoch is about to be – once again – a big part of our new social history … ironically, this time he may well undermine his own printing presses?

james

prescient or not…i enjoyed this post…if i were murdoch would i go for six apart or automattic…hmmmmmmmm?
Six Apart is more like a traditional business i.e. completely in the market, while WordPress is half in the commons and half in the market.
…it’s a tough call…Six Apart is less risky… Right now i would say Six Apart, but i can’t imagine SA culture getting on with murdoch’s, although he probably can be a charming bastard.

Ted

I don’t think you “get it”. Blogs are a necessary component of a vibrant newsmedia, not the antidote or successor to tradititional reporting.

The next media czar will embrace the economics of paying much less for news, but reporting is still and always will be a craft which requires more then scanning other media for information.

Xavier Casanova

Aren’t they interested in communities, as opposed to tools/platforms? If so, while I think getting into blogging might make sense, I’d see them buying a few blog networks instead, maybe GigaOM?

You never know.

Vishal

To me at a high level this is the consequence of two things and is summarized well,
1. World is flat and getting flatter.
2. The long tail… and continues.
These two effects will cause enormous ups and down for media and technology based industry.

Samuel L

Old media are facing big challenge and the new medias will be more and more present in the daily life of commons people, not just geeks. A lot of business need to adapt to this new reality … or new ones will do it :)

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