Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Murdoch To Newspapers: Drop Dead

BUT RUPE MAY BE SPEAKING WITH FORKED, RIGHT-WING TONGUE FIRMLY IN CHEEK; FOX CHIEF KEEPS PECKING IN MEDIA HENHOUSE

In the latest New York Observer, Richard Brookshier makes note of Rupert Murdoch's recent comments to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, where proclaimed they were presiding over a dinosaur medium in danger of soon becoming one giant fossil. Decreed Rupe:

"We need to realize that the next generation of people accessing news and information, whether from newspapers or any other source, have a different set of expectations .... Unless we awaken to these changes and adapt quickly, we will, as an industry, be relegated to the status of also-rans."

Fair enough. And Murdoch has been nothing if not prescient over his career. Yet, it's easy to wonder how he can muster the courage behind his convictions. After all, if newspapers are such a dog of a medium, why is he content to lose, by some estimates, at least $40 million publishing the New York Post?

That's a steep price to merely be the conservative bulldog barking up a storm in a left-leaning town. If Murdoch truly believed newspapers should be put to sleep, he could exercise greater dominion over the newscasts on the two TV stations he owns in New York. But it's just not the same and Murdoch knows that.

Those who incur the Post's wrath can take comfort in knowing most TV viewers will not have seen the 10 p.m. news on channels 5 and 9. But friends and enemies are bound to catch up with the latest screeds in the Post, either by plunking down a quarter for the tab, or by migrating to the paper's very popular Web site. Suffice to say, that's an ego trip Murdoch will be making for a long time to come, no matter how expensive it gets.

And don't you think he gets more than a frisson of excitement looking at the still-thick circulation numbers in the UK, where The Sun and its bodacious, bare-breasted babes on Page 3 http://www.page3.com/ and the weekly trashfest contained in The News Of The World http://www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/ handily outsell all comers?
In fact, News Corp. still puts out 175 newspapers on three continents with a circulation in the neighborhood of 40 million.
That's a lot of readers, and a lot of money. Murdoch will e buying newsprint by the tanker-load well into his dotage. Newspapers may be old media. But they still work. And nobody knows that better than Murdoch.

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