Since I was not invited to Herb Allen’s annual media mogul shindig in Sun Valley last week (I am sure it was an oversight) I tried to surreptitiously join the boldface business gang through, you know, the media. Why not? Just Rupert Murdoch, Harvey Weinstein, Terry Semel, Sergey Brin, Barry Diller, Anderson Cooper, Jeff Bezos... and me. I would hitch a virtual ride on a private jet (no plebian time-share for me) and carve up the world media pie and decide how all the people of the world will see, hear, and feel all their information, news and entertainment for the foreseeable future. What fun in the sun.
I was not alone in this voyeuristic pursuit. There is such interest in the Sun Valley event that major media outlets dispatch reporters who can say they are on the scene but cannot really see anything since this is a “No Media” zone for these hotshot media titans. All we get are crumbs of speculation, gossip, and the occasional spark of insight from a Ken AulettaNew Yorker profile. Supposedly, Google seriously smooched up YouTube, and ABC Cap Cities succumbed to ABC at prior Sun Valley mogul fests. Important business gets done here.
So how does the media cover the media when the media is excluded? If you’re The New York Times and you are in the midst of a huge push into ‘new media’ you send David Carr to be an on-the-scene blogger for the Times’ “DealBook.”
In the opening days of the confab Carr was agog with how happy and relaxed Rupert Murdoch looked. Sure. He probably timed his bid for Dow Jones so he would have that little canary in his mouth when getting together with those who thought they were his peers. Not only does Rupert have the juiciest deal in the works, he has the hottest wife, Wendi Deng, 30 years his junior. Rupert had to cough up the biggest divorce settlement in history (big divorce settlement, big... you know), $1.7 billion in assets and $110 million in cash, to his former wife when she caught him having an affair with Wendi. So naturally we want to know how Rupert maintains his virility and unfettered ambition and still look like he doesn’t have a care in the world.
“Rupert Murdoch was spotted with some yogurt on his plate; Warren Buffett had what looked to be a hamburger...” Carr wrote in the DealBook blog.
So, that’s it. Rupert consumes live culture. This news shook the blogosphere. Carr did not mention that an enterprising entrepreneur has already drawn up plans for RUPURT, Rupert yogurt, for the erectile dysfunction/incontinent crowd that wants to be as voracious in their 70s as they were in their 40s.
Is it just me, or does Rupert Murdoch’s face actually seem to be melting? I expect him to rip off the latex mask someday to reveal a 35 year old guy who will scream with glee: “I will live forever and own all media and my wife will always be 30 years younger than me.” No matter what good intentions he espouses, dress him up in a Hawaiian shirt and khakis and Rupert Murdoch still looks like a Batman bad guy who hatches his evil plans for world domination in an underground lair.
Bottom line media news from Sun Valley: No deals, nothing substantive but David Carr is cool. He was on the scene, sneaking behind the vegetation, tangling with the burly body guard, knocking back shots and commiserating with reporters in the local bar. He corners Howard Stringer in the bar when other reporters are too shy (he does have a deadline to consider, and you get the sense that he is ennobled by liquid libation), and is harangued by security for having the temerity to write down what Sergey Brin is saying.
New York Times readers were not thrilled with Carr and the paper-of-record’s lean toward chattiness in its Internet reporting. Comments one: “ok, please stop the fawning and breathless reports of celebrity spotting. unless this has to do with deals, markets, or news, no one really cares. how many pixels/ink you guys gonna waste on this drivel?”
Finally, Carr lands some big game mogul. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, ventured into the gaggle of info-starved reporters and dropped a few bombs at Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, who was obliged to retaliate when he arrived on the scene. It was sort of a Paris vs. Lindsay exchange although nobody snapped these guys going commando in uncompromising positions.
I liked Carr’s reporting because he was writing like a blogger on constant deadline, not a stuffy Times reporter considering his words for posterity. Carr was not afraid to be a goofball gawker, not Alessandra Stanley issuing high directives about what to like or not like on TV because it fits with the Times standard of liberal, cultural elitism. The Times is forcing change through increasing use of video segments, podcasts, blogs, and slide shows to accompany news and criticism. Times readers, I see through comments on various blogs, have no sense of humor, are resistant to change, and prefer their news to be wrapped in a highly liberal bias. This blog-driven chattiness about lunch fare and summer mogul fashion and the lust for power and money must drive them crazy. You gotta love it.
Mark Rose is founder and CEO of RosePR/new media, offering best-of-breed digital communications strategies and resources. He is also editor of PRBlogNews , a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.
“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.
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