With all the grumblefish swarming over Rupert Murdoch’s [choose your favorite] pending/possible/slam-dunk/end-of-days-foretelling acquisition of Dow Jones, most speculation has centered on whether, or how much, he’ll color the venerated Wall Street Journal yellow. But as we all know, print + x years = digital.
So let’s look a Rupert’s pure-play 2.0fferings and see what, if anything, they tell us about News Corp.’s strengths and inclinations in the digital space. I’m not talking about the issues of opening up WSJ content or strategic moves with MySpace (which Joe Marchese does a nice job with yesterday in his excellent Online Spin blog). And I’m not talking about the digital iterations of his TV or paper plays. Just pure Web. Let’s look at three:
Rotten Tomatoes. If memory serves, RT was a very early leader in the UGC/Wisdom of Crowds niche, permitting (and even encouraging) folks to provide no-b.s., and as appropriate hostile, reviews of movies. Under Uncle Rupert’s Interactive Group it’s become a hellishly inane diffuse movie fanzone devoted also to DVDs and games. It’s hard even to find the tools and database devoted to the original premise, amidst all the celebrity jetsam, babe galleries, movie trailers, lists, promos and cross-promos, retail hustle and, way down there somewhere, a busy but dimwit social network. Even the Site Map is beetling with multiple navigations.
RupertRating: Traffic and category domination: 4 stars. Crass commercialism: 5 stars. Smutty hustle: 3 stars. Editorial quality: 2 stars. Navigation: 1 star.
AskMen.com. The stated purpose of the site is to be a portal for topics of interest to men, with frank and accessible answers to guys’ questions. Once again, that premise is buried in an avalanche of commerce, clutter and [to digress into the vernacular] major babes. Celebrity- and soft-core galleries are ubiquitous. To be fair, the “real content” is pretty good–debunking myths on hair loss, how to sober up, the strange world of strongman competitions. It’s easy to find on the home page and some vertical channels, but you’re never far from photos of women with breasts are like zepplins, marvels of modern plastics engineering. Of course there are channels devoted to movies and games. Latest features all have related single sponsors (New British Invasion and Beefeater Gin, Americana and Chevy, etc.)
RupertRatings: Traffic and category domination: 4 stars. Crass commercialism: 4 stars. Smutty hustle: 5 stars. Editorial qualty: 3 stars. Navigation: 3 stars.
kSolo (beta). News Corp. claims this is the world’s first “online karaoke experience,” which sounds suspect but who’s to know? Talk about UGC! It appears to be a social community play, with “share your performances,” audience ratings and so on. In beta, there’s no commercial hustle. But I’d be very surprised if the site doesn’t fill with pop-ups, promos for music, movies and (somehow) games, a gallery of hot babes and dudes, etc.
RuperRating: Too early to tell.
Bottom line: Overbearing commercialism and self-dealing. Low content quality. Poor user experience. Suspiciously ubiquitous use of babes. In Rupert Murdoch operations? Imagine!