Interview: Gordon Crovitz, Publisher, WSJ & President, DJ Consumer Media Group

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However he might feel personally — and he’s not saying as top execs try to maintain neutrality — Gordon Crovitz now is touting the potential benefits of the News Corp.-Dow Jones deal. Crovitz, a former reporter, is president of the consumer media group and publisher of the WSJ franchise. We quoted last night from his publisher’s letter; Wednesday morning he sent the Consumer Media Group staff an equally long memo with some similarities but a different focus. We spoke Wednesday afternoon about that potential, an open WSJ.com versus the current premium-free mix, and about his own future with the company. Some excerpts:

Yea or nay: Asked if he favored the acquisition, Crovitz paused and replied: “I think the great opportunity for Dow Jones and the Journal is how do we best transition from an old-media world to a new-media world and how do we take full advantage of digital technology and distribution. Doing that as part of a larger company, I think we can be more successful more quickly and with more certainty than as a moderate -sized company.” (If you were looking for a personal vote, refer back to the part about neutrality.)..more after the jump…

Global role: Crovitz listed a number of ways that the much-larger News Corp. could help. The global aspects clearly are appealing: Crovitz: “News Corp. is very much a global company. Many of us have long aspired to have the Journal play the same role outside the U.S. as it has long played in our home market and I think our prospects for being able to do that are much greater with News Corp. …”

Business models: In this and his previous executive role, Crovitz has been responsible for growing subscriptions for WSJ.com — about to hit 1 million due, in part, to an attractive bundle of print and online — and for increasing the revenues from a blended premium-free model. Barron’s Online, which went solo in early 2006, is closing in on 100,000 subscribers. The site has expanded in reach through syndication, driving more revenue, and through distribution of several “free” stories a day to bloggers; it draws roughly 3 million monthly uniques. Asked if lowering the pay wall would bring in enough ad-only dollars to be worth it, Crovitz replied: “So far, our analysis says the way to maximize revenues and earnings is to have a mixed model.” He says ads are sold at a premium across the Wall Street Journal Digital Network.

Integration: With a closing several months away, Crovitz said it is too soon to talk about how Dow Jones will be integrated into News Corp.

His future: Murdoch told some WSJ reporters back in June that he would expect Crovitz to stay on. Crovitz said he has not had any discussions and it would be premature. His comments today and his writings suggest — not to read too much between the lines — that he is interested in staying with DJ in the new era. Crovitz, one of the company’s top executives, is among with compensation packages — so-called golden parachutes — that were enhanced in June in advance of a possible sale.

For our full and continuing coverage of News Corp buying Dow Jones, read our dedicated section here.

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