“Dow Dumps As Naked Arbs Run Wild,” might be the headline. Or “Inflation Tamed in Wild Whipping Session.” Who knows what headlines Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal will unleash upon the world but we can sure they will be suggestive, humorous, and more interesting than what we have now. This week the Bancroft family, majority owners of Dow Jones, the Journal’s parent company, agreed to meet with Rupert Murdoch about possible sale of the esteemed, well protected media property. They are scheduled to meet tomorrow, with Murdoch bearing a $5 billion offer for Dow Jones.
The Journal has always been a strange beast. The editorial pages flaunt a conservative agenda that makes Karl Rove look meek, while the reporting staff is generally young and liberal. It’s as if one side shrugs at the other apologetically and they try to get along. I love the Journal editorial pages because they afford extensive coverage to well-thought conservative opinion. Some of it is didactic ideology, some of it too dense to penetrate, some of it brilliantly researched and presented. The Journal was a major contributor to the rising tide of conservative Republicans seizing the intellectual high-road from Democrats, and it would seem that Rupert Murdoch being Rupert Murdoch would not want to mess with that.
The news and advice sections, the great majority of the paper, might be another story. Personally, I’m bored with the Journal. The recent re-design of the paper turned it into a Tip Sheet for the web site. The Weekend Journal doesn’t do anything for me. The Journal is a must-read during the week. Come the weekend I would rather read about Britney in the tabs and watch the Yankees lose another game (although Joe Morgenstern, 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner for criticism, does the best movie reviews on the planet).
The paper needs focus and some juice. I think merging the Journal with Murdoch’s New York Post would yield the best business daily imaginable. Possible news subjects, in any variation, are limitless: business, sex, scandal, jail, trial, sex, business, economy, pummel Clintons, sex, murder, bad accidents, yielding the real story - blessed profits trickling up to the next gen Murdoch’s taking over the great brand that Murdoch could only buy, not build.
The six next gen Murdoch’s, who are not wanting for play money (they were each recently granted $100 million in company stock for ‘personal use’), might integrate with another Murdoch property, MySpace, for a viral video MySpaceJournal raw hedge fund/naked arb/double dealing derivative virtual mashup, delivered through Murdoch’s Sky Media, integrated with the new Murdoch acquisition of Photobucket, filtered through the new Fox Business TV channel. Maybe it takes Murdoch to bring out the sex appeal and drama in the pursuit of money, and to bring it to your cell phone. Think about it. All Murdoch all the time. The family may soon have the ability to control all the information on the planet. Hallelujah.
The Wall Street Journal is the second largest circulation paper in the U.S., behind USA Today. The Journal, USA Today, and, arguably, The New York Times are the top national newspapers in the U.S. USA Today is available in almost every hotel in the U.S. The New York Times is available in every Starbuck’s. Money, and the pursuit of it, transcends geographic, demographic, and professional boundaries. It is the great equivocator. The Journal– the daily diary of the American dream – is sold everywhere, even in poor neighborhoods. The Journal online is one of the great successes in online media and has provided enough value since its early days to charge for content.
The Journal is increasingly being fed content from other Dow Jones properties, such as MarketWatch, a popular retail finance web site, and the Dow Jones newswires. Barron’s, a quirky Dow Jones weekly that is comprised of a handful of columnists and a lot of market and stock data, will always have a devoted 300,000 circulation following that can’t get enough Wall Street in five days. Dow Jones is an incredible media property and would hand Murdoch a legacy burnishing crown jewel, a halo of respectability he does not currently enjoy despite his fantastic wealth.
It will be very interesting to see how the drama plays out this week as the Murdoch’s and Bancroft’s (the Montagues and Capulets?) seek harmony among their families, and seek a deal in which everyone walks away a winner, with a stellar media property that is driven to rise to its greatest potential. Fat chance. It will get nasty. But it will make nice story material in the Journal and on Fox TV and in rival media outlets. And it could presage an assault on another esteemed, well-protected family-run newspaper property, The New York Times.
Mark Rose is editor of PRBlogNews - a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.