Posted by Mark Rose
It was breathtaking to see how fast the aging but still nimble Rupert the Wily stalked and mercilessly killed his prey, Dow Jones, with only a bare hint of blood on his paws. Rupert entered the lair with a dripping hunk of fresh meat ($5 billion), divided and conquered the dysfunctional Bancroft’s and this week came away with the trophy of a lifetime, enough to secure his crown as the greatest media big game hunter of all time. Seeing how entrenched, resistant and divided the Bancroft’s were to Rupert’s entreaties was a fascinating window into what has been ailing Dow Jones all these years. Dow Jones covers business but it was not being run as a business, or a vital media property. Expect that to change fast.
Three suggestions for Rupert:
1) Lift the beleaguered Dow Jones reporters from their exile in the dreary Harborside bunker in New Jersey. Taking the PATH to get to Dow Jones is unconscionable. And when you arrive at the newsroom, such as it is, it looks like it was constructed to pump propaganda for the Politburo. Bloomberg built a stunning modern cathedral to the power of financial media. Make a post 9/11 patriotic statement, build the Frank Gehry designed financial nerve center of the universe in lower Manhattan. PS: As Bloomberg smartly realized, free cappuccino does wonders for media production.
2) Get an information architecture specialist like Jakob Nielsen to figure the coordinated presentation of news. The recent re-design of the print edition was a failure. It cheapened the Journal, made it into a cheat sheet for the website. Compounding the problem, the Journal online is a confusing mess. Do not offer online content for free. The Journal was a pioneer in charging for content. If done right, it’s worth it. Scale up, not down.
3) Inject the business/financial news with urgency, drama, and sex. It’s what news is about, what business is about. Conde Nast launched Portfolio with huge marketing and a big capital commitment. When I read Portfolio I think – this could easily be in the Journal, the daily diary of the American dream, with the added kicker of deep conservative cred on the editorial pages. Kill the Saturday edition. Nobody reads it and dilutes the focus of the Journal. I bet it doesn’t pay in advertising anyway.
August 2, the day after the Murdoch/Dow Jones deal was announced, Michael Tangeman noticed the lack of discussion of this on PR blogs. He posted on his MediaMindshare blog: “ …it would appear that many other renowned blogging minds of public relations are too busy with tips, tech toys and visions of the social media future to simply pause for a moment, consider the significance of this landmark deal for the media landscape on which their livelihood presumably depends, and peck out at least one cogent reflection in even the most minimal of blog posts.”
Amen brother. The reason is that most ‘PR bloggers’ do not write about public relations and are scornful of media relations because they don’t understand it. Shel Holtz, often ranked as one of the most influential of ‘PR’ bloggers, commented on Michaels’s post that he would make no comment until he could see some action, meaning he didn’t know what he was talking about and declared that he would say nothing.
I can understand Shel’s reluctance to offer a snap judgment. After all, Dow Jones has only been around since 1882 and Rupert the Wily has only been hunting the world’s big media game for over 40 years. Perhaps we should check back with Shel in 2010 when he can offer wizened reflection on current events.
Actually, the response of the shel of his former self is the du jour message of PR ‘thinkers’ these days – pump the conversation, offer no opinion, don’t engage. It’s like you’re at a convention for conversationalists who won’t talk. And that is why all the supposed metrics I have seen for measuring blogger influence are bogus to the core. Popularity is no assurance of relevance and influence, often it’s the opposite. The wisdom of the crowds dictates that the blogosphere, like anything else, will always settle at the lowest common denominator and the river will naturally flow where the earth is most deeply etched.
That’s why I like Jason McCabe Calacanis, a guy who does not seem to be happy unless he is actively pissing off at least half his sizable audience. Jason threw a bomb to the social media digerati when he declared “Facebook bankruptcy” at the beginning of the week. He was sick, physically, and he was spent emotionally. Too many requests for friends of friends to approve this information and that, to connect whatever to something else that all seemed like a huge waste of time. To really punctuate his disgust he turned off comments on his blog.
Yeah, Jason was channeling his inner Brooklyn bitch but he was asking important questions: “ … are we creating a social system to communicate with each other at a distance because the reality of creating and maintaining that social network face-to-face is, well, scary?”
Scoble disagreed. He said he was thrilled to have 4,000 Facebook friends who could lead him to other friends who might be interested in his Twitter about how much sleep he got last night. You know, when I go to Yankee Stadium I am surrounded by 56,000 friends but they all head for the exits when the game is over. With Facebook, although the game just started, it feels like we are already in the bottom of the 8th inning.
Mark Rose is editor of PRBlogNews - a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.
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