OFF THE GRID

Murdoch Will Change the Web—If He Can Find It

May 8, 09 | 9:39 AM   byMichael Wolff
Get posts from Michael Wolff via email (Sample)

Follow him on Twitter @MichaelWolffNYC

Trying to distract from some disastrous quarterly results, Rupert Murdoch made headlines the other day by announcing that News Corp. would shortly begin to charge for access to its websites and that “the current days of the Internet will soon be over.”

This comes on the heels of Murdoch firing the founders and reorganizing MySpace and bringing in Jonathan Miller, the former head of AOL, to run News Corp.’s digital businesses.

Rupert, in other words, is mad as hell about the Internet and is going to do something about it.

I’ve pointed out before that Murdoch doesn’t know where the Internet is—doesn’t get email, doesn’t use a computer, can’t get his cell phone to work. He may, literally, never have opened a web page. News Corp. itself, other than its fluke purchase of MySpace—whose value rose and then, as Facebook surged ahead, crashed—is even more culturally uninterested in digital media than other digitally averse traditional media companies. So when Murdoch has to say something on the issue—when that’s what the company thinks Wall Street wants to hear—there’s a chicken-without-head scramble in the company to find someone whose been on the Internet to brief him.


(AP Photo)

This has often, in the past, been Murdoch’s son, James, or his wife, Wendi. But now it is usually Robert Thomson, the Wall Street Journal editor. Thomson, a Melbourne boy for whom Murdoch has an almost fanatical admiration, is Delphic and combative in his pronouncements. His point now, the one that he’s foisted on Murdoch, is that the Wall Street Journal does everything right, including charging for content on the Internet—and, implicitly, that the Journal, and Thomson, should lead the way at News Corp.

Pay no attention to the fact that the Journal could lose as much as $100 million this year, and that it bears significant responsibility for the dramatic collapse of News Corp.’s share price.

Now Thomson’s real point is, in fact, the opposite of the one Murdoch is making. Thomson is saying that it would be great if News Corp. could charge for its other websites like it’s charging for the Journal. But it obviously can’t because New Corp.’s other sites—the New York Post, Fox News, and at the Australian and British papers—are a joke. They’re unmanned, unsupported, and, with technology that’s often a decade old, they don’t work. That is, except for the Journal, and, also, the Times of London, a site which Thomson ran before coming to the Journal and, not incidentally, got Murdoch to make a big investment in.

I.e., only Robert Thomson knows what he’s doing at News Corp.

Murdoch is panicking. He really has no idea what to do about the Wall Street Journal, now in freefall, and the dwindling fortunes of his hundreds of other newspapers and television stations (which used to be the cash cows of News Corp.). So he’s turned to Thomson, his staunchest ally in his epic quest for Dow Jones (I’ve wondered before if the Journal wasn’t a flirting tactic on Rupert’s part—“Robert, what would you say if I bought you the Wall Street Journal?"), and now News Corp.’s curious Svengali.

And Thomson has said, it’s the Internet, boss. There’s gold in those hills.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com.
COMMENTS
You need to Log in to Newser to comment. Don't have an account yet? Sign up now!
2 comments
RECENT POSTS
Oct 20, 10 | 1:52 PM

I Have an Afghanistan Solution

Oct 19, 10 | 9:28 AM

The War in Afghanistan Is Over

Oct 14, 10 | 10:22 AM

How to Tax the Rich

Oct 6, 10 | 8:54 AM

Founding Fathers Version 2.0

Sep 30, 10 | 11:40 AM

Here's Why Google Needs To Buy Twitter Immediately

FeedRSS
ABOUT

OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

NEWS FROM OUR PARTNERS
Other Sites We Like:   The Street   |   24/7 Wall St.   |   BuzzFeed   |   Cracked   |   World History Project   |   POPSUGAR Tech   |   Business Insider   |   HuffPost Entertainment