Tweet: Compare/contrast Rupert Murdoch on the internet (and me) then and now.

In 2005, Rupert Murdoch gave a rousing speech to the American Society of Newspapers Editors calling on them to listen to digital natives. Yesterday, his deputy, Les Hinton, gave a speech to the World Association of Newspapers in India warning them to beware geeks bearing gifts.

Murdoch in 2005:

Like many of you in this room, I’m a digital immigrant. I wasn’t weaned on the web, nor coddled on a computer. Instead, I grew up in a highly centralized world where news and information were tightly controlled by a few editors, who deemed to tell us what we could and should know. My two young daughters, on the other hand, will be digital natives. They’ll never know a world without ubiquitous broadband internet access.

The peculiar challenge then, is for us digital immigrants – many of whom are in positions to determine how news is assembled and disseminated — to apply a digital mindset to a new set of challenges.

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 about the kind of news they will get, including when and how they will get it, where they will get it from, and who they will get it from….

The challenge, however, is to deliver that news in ways consumers want to receive it. Before we can apply our competitive advantages, we have to free our minds of our prejudices and predispositions, and start thinking like our newest consumers. In short, we have to answer this fundamental question: what do we – a bunch of digital immigrants — need to do to be relevant to the digital natives?

Murdoch deputy Hinton yesterday:

We are all allowing our journalism – billions of dollars worth of it every year – to leak onto the internet. We are surrendering our hard-earned rights to the search engines, and aggregators, and the out-and-out thieves of the digital age.

It is time to pause and recognize this – Free Costs Too Much. News is a business, and we should not be ashamed to say so. It’s also a tougher business today than ever before. We have survived other perceived threats – radio, television, cable TV. But this time it is different.

How can it be that the Internet offered so much promise and so little profit? I guess a lot of newspaper people were taken in by the game-changing gospel of the internet age. It was a new dawn, we were told. A new epoch, a new paradigm. And we just didn’t get it.

Like an over-eager middle-aged dad, desperate to look cool, we ended up dancing obediently to other people’s tunes. For a while. You can almost hear the music – an algorithm and blues soundtrack – accompanying the harbingers of the new economy with the new rules of the new age. Their rules.

These digital visionaries tell people like me that we just don’t understand them. They talk about the wonders of the interconnected world, about the democratization of journalism. The news, they say, is viral now – that we should be grateful.

Well, I think all of us need to beware of geeks bearing gifts.

Listen to digital natives or beware them? Which is it?

On a personal note, see Murdoch on me in 2005 (a plug I was given because I helped Murdoch’s then speechwriter, Gary Ginsberg, with the substance of the talk):

Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it. They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle. Think about how blogs and message boards revealed that Kryptonite bicycle locks were vulnerable to a Bic pen. Or the Swiftboat incident. Or the swift departure of Dan Rather from CBS. One commentator, Jeff Jarvis, puts it this way: give the people control of media, they will use it. Don’t give people control of media, and you will lose them.

Now see Hinton referring to me yesterday:

Or as Jeff Jarvis, one of the leading proponents of the information-must-be-free imperative puts it: The content economy is over. Is it really?

(By the way, I’m not part of that crowd. Jay Rosen would challenge Hinton for a link.)

  • Mr. Jarvis,

    You see that is the difference between someone like you and someone like Rupert Murdoch.

    You are coming from a place of vision.And you strive to stay true to that vision as best you are able to understand and articulate it.

    Murdoch is coming from a place of acquisitiveness. He wants, money, power, fame, what have you. So he will say whatever he believes will get him that. He tried one way back then. It didn’t work, or didn’t work well enough so now he’s trying this way.

    If (when I suspect in truth) this approach doesn’t work, he’ll try something else.

    • I absolutely agree with you. Murdoch wants money, power, fame… and will do anything to get it, including changing his approach or “values” to achieve it.

  • Matt Terenzio

    Getting tired of hearing the new defense, “We tried it that way and it didn’t work.”
    Neither did subscription when you tried that.
    You want to learn how to swim, at some point you must risk drowning. This is where Newspapers have failed. Cut the tether to find what new projects will float on their own. Many won’t, same as the many Google projects that fail. The few that do float are you new business models for when your core business has fully deflated.

    • Miles Box

      spot on Matt. Newspapers make the mistake of believeing they exist online amongst the same peer group as offline. But content is freely available everywhere, and that cannot be controlled JP erected a paywall this week around the Worksop Guardian – so now you must pay to read the report of Worksop Town vs Witby…unless you go to Google and ask for a match report, where you will find plenty. How much do i want a journo to write the review vs just knowing what happened? The problem is not that newspapers didnt start behind payment, its that the medium has changed how content is avaiable. Old media may drown if they don’t stop clinging to the wreckage of an outdated model but just hoping the water will recede is not a strategy either.

  • Stu

    Doesn’t it look too strange that exactly Murdoch and his empire are lashing at the aggregators really intensively.

    I can understand Murdoch and Co’s anger at the aggregators – after all his empire owns Factiva (

    That’s a company that does exactly the following – it organizes the world’s newspaper content and gains money thanks to this.

    Now I may be wrong but I can see far plans for Factiva’s model to become a viable model (if sufficiently backed) for distributing content digitally and making lots of money from it.

    It’s hard to underestimate this digital model for making money from newspaper content on the Internet.

  • As a non-news, non-journalist, normal person, I’ve been watching the flapdoodle about Mr. Murdoch (mostly flapping and doodling from the interweb).

    If you’re so right, why are your collective panties in a knot? Ignore him and move on. You’ll be proved right. Or he will. In either event, the next iteration of reality will ensue.

    Geez. It’s like junior high.

  • Dermitt

    Selling more of less. WebTV failed and now we have digital TV. The customer is king and queen. We do not want cable TV internet. Wireless will lower cost to the point of free. It is free although rationed. A rationed internet would not work. It seems soviet wall thinking endures. Analog can deliver content so we could use old TV spectrum as CB radio subnet using cheap wifi gear.

  • michael
  • Dermitt

    Most of the news is so bad you cannot charge more. Now papers want to be like GM and on the dole to keep rolling. Do not be creative just limit the next person so all can fail and ration information. All reporters can work as regulators for state news agency.

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  • Ambrose

    Wow, first we see Rupert Murdoch gushing about his young daughters, then we get Hinton saying News has been behaving “Like an over-eager middle-aged dad”.

    Oh, *snap*.

  • Josh

    I think Phil Hodgen has connected the hammer and the nail.

    Why all the flapping and panty knotting? If people are so certain that Murdoch’s strategy is a failed one then go ahead and let him fail. It will be one less “legacy” player crowding the democratic internet.

    I think what the “information-must-not-be-charged-for” crowd are most scared of is that Murdoch may just turn out to be correct – that people will pay for online content (no, not all of them, but that doesn’t matter as long as enough do). If he does succeed, watch as every single major publisher does likewise.

    That is their great fear and the reason for the flapping and knotting.

    I have no problem with people seeing free as the way forward for journalism. What I do have a problem are the ones who see it as the only way. They are zealots, unbending in their beliefs as they shout down anyone with a contrary opinion and champion anyone who thinks as they do.

    • Eric Gauvin

      I agree. We can see through “Professor Marvel’s” act.

      “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! The Great and Powerful Wizard has spoken!”

    • Andy Freeman

      > I think what the “information-must-not-be-charged-for” crowd

      There is no such crowd. There are, however, folks who point out that readers have choices.

      > are most scared of is that Murdoch may just turn out to be correct

      If we’re scared, why are many of us hoping that Murdoch does put his content behind a paywall?

      Yes, some companies do make more money with a paywall. Who, exactly, has argued that they shouldn’t? (No, you don’t get to say “I’ve heard” – specifics only.)

      However, most companies seem to lose money with paywalls.

      If your goal is to make money, figuring out which category you fit in seems important.

      I want Murdoch to go paywall so that everyone can see how much readers actually value his content.

      • Andy Freeman

        > >However, most companies seem to lose money with paywalls.

        > Specifics please…

        Times Select. Slate.

        Paywalls are not new. Many companies have tried them and failed.

        > I think the point is everything is for the most part free on the internet. So far it seems the internet has been mostly for marketing and a few people have struck it rich in some slightly unusual way.

        That paragraph doesn’t make any sense if you substitute “TV” for internet.

        A lot of content is free to consumers but content isn’t “everything”. And no, I’m not referring to on-line selling. (Hint – the audience is not free.)

        BTW – Anyone who thinks “mostly for marketing” hasn’t been paying attention.

    • Eric Gauvin

      Andy Freeman says:

      >However, most companies seem to lose money with paywalls.

      Specifics please…

      I think the point is everything is for the most part free on the internet. So far it seems the internet has been mostly for marketing and a few people have struck it rich in some slightly unusual way.

  • Dermitt

    Free is still a day late and dollar short which is fine. A good journalist considers what can be seen and most importantly what should be forseen. That pays off down the road. Abu Dhabi lost 89% on Citigroup which has not paid off and now what? We still have our ports to report.

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  • Murdoch is acting in exactly the same way that music executives did when their lucrative album and singles sales were disappearing into the digital ether.

    News happens, it is free. Reporting it is a discretionary act on the part of commercial media. Murdoch has more to fear from the stars of his media empire establishing their own blog, twitter and facebook reporting platform and going solo.

    It used to be that we had to buy an Album to hear a small number of good songs. Why is it necessary to gain access to a full newspaper or through a digital website paywall to find a good report?

    Newspapers are in trouble because they forgot to build a scalable, profitable online model for commerce on news that is free and going back to the old ways is the same as driving your car in a rear view mirror. Murdoch and any legacy media moguls need to get to grips with the reality of access to news which is no longer a monopoly empire.

  • Jeff,

    You are a visionary and for that you will survive where other newspapers and newsmen will fail. News is not dead it’s just evolving and changing.

    People like Murdoch are old stuffy men who try desperately to cling on to a dying concept. And because of him and other like him, they are trying to take down the very thing that might save them from extinction.

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  • It seems to me that most everything is free on the Internet. So far it seems that the Internet is primarily a marketing, and many people have the little something “extraordinary enriched.

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