What’s Murdoch’s plan?

Kai Ryssdal May 1, 2007
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What’s Murdoch’s plan?

Kai Ryssdal May 1, 2007
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KAI RYSSDAL: Well there you have the news of the day: Rupert Murdoch paying $5 billion for Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal. The big question is, Why? For the answer to that, we’ve gotten a hold of Tim Rutten at the Los Angeles Times. Tim, good to have you with us.

TIM RUTTEN: Very good to be with you.

RYSSDAL: So I put it to you: Why?

RUTTEN: Well, I think there’re a number of reasons. Possibly the most urgent is that Mr. Murdoch is about to launch a new financial news cable network. And getting a hold of Dow Jones brings not only a tremendous reporting staff, probably the best in the world when it comes to financial news. And also the instant credibility of a tremendous brand.

RYSSDAL: Five billion dollars though, that’s a lot of money to pay for credibility. Is there a newspaper in the world today that’s worth $5 billion?

RUTTEN: Well, that’s a good question. I think Murdoch thinks so, and he doesn’t often lose too much money. I think that there’s a reason, though, that Dow Jones, Wall Street Journal is particularly attractive. And that’s that of all the major American newspapers, The Wall Street Journal is furthest down the road to a sustainable, digital future.

RYSSDAL: What does that mean? I mean, they have this online service and they charge subscription fees, they’ve been more successful than anybody else. Is that enough to hang this on?

RUTTEN: It’s something. That plus what they’ll get out of the synergy with the TV network. And remember, this is an interesting deal because this is synergy from the ground up. As opposed to, say, the TimeWarner/AOL deal or the Times-Mirror/Tribune Company. This is a synergy that builds from the ground up. Rupert Murdoch has a need, The Wall Street Journal has the ability to fulfill that need. There’s no reason they couldn’t work together. Then there’s something else, and that’s that I’d be very worried if I were the Financial Times. A part of Rupert Murdoch’s heart still remains on Fleet Street, and I think he can envision turning the Wall Street Journal into an all-conquering, international brand that basically squeezes the Financial Times out of the market.

RYSSDAL: The Wall Street Journal’s getting all the press today — pun, I suppose, intended — but Dow Jones has a lot of other properties. I mean, it’s not just a newspaper company.

RUTTEN: Absolutely. It’s a first-rate publishing company. And you know, like, Murdoch may also be attracted by the fact . . . you know, it’s commonly said, when you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, you get two newspapers: You get a great newspaper produced by the journalists, and then you get a very idiosyncratic, right-wing editorial page that wields a great deal of influence. And Rupert Murdoch, with his subsidies of the weekly standard, has shown that he likes to keep his hand in that wing of American politics.

RYSSDAL: Fits neatly with the Fox channels.

RUTTEN: Absolutely.

RYSSDAL: Tim Rutten writes the Regarding Media column for the Los Angeles Times. Tim, thanks a lot.

RUTTEN: My pleasure.

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