Archive for the ‘News Corp.’ category

Rupert Online

1, August, 2007

Back when Rupert Murdoch’s pursuit of Dow Jones was just a fear, I took a look at the keenly ambitious Australian’s Web 2.0fferings–the pure Web plays that linger on the edges of his empire. Conclusion: About what you’d expect–highly commercial, faddish, often titillating, little meaningful content, wildly successful. 

Now that the Dow deed is done, let’s look at what the 76-year-old acquistioneur now finds in his digital toybin.

  • Although reported as an afterthought if at all, in acquiring Dow-Jones Murdoch also gets MarketWatch.com, a huge market news and information service that speaks to the trading community about a subject close to Dow Jones Co.’s heart, which is to say the stock market. It generates 176 million page views per month, and 6 million uniques. (Boy, that’s a good views-to-uniques ratio.)
  • MarketWatch delivers a lot of the market-monitoring tools you’ll find elsewhere both behind paid walls and on free sites. But it’s set apart by drawing on the global network of D-J reporting and editing talent to produce what the company says are 1,400 headlines/reports per day. That’s about one per minute. [Note to Rupe: Give those frontline MarketWatch producers a raise.]
  • MarketWatch has a free spin-off called Virtual Stock Exchange, which is sort of like a fantasy sports service for market geeks with a lot of time on their hands. 
  • D-J of course also operates barrons.com, the behind-a-paid-wall digital version of that thinky business publication. By pure coincidence, that site will debut a 2.0-era upgrade on August 10; see a hard-to-tell advertiser-pitch preview here. [Note to business/digital reporters: Anyone who on Aug. 10 writes “In what may be the first glimpse of Rupert Murdoch’s plans for his digital holdings, today an updated version of Barrons.com debuted. . .” will be personally paddle-whipped by me, or someone bigger. This re-do has been in progress since before Rupert was even a flash of terror in Bancroft eyes.]
  • In addition, Murdoch picks up a handful of WSJ-branded verticals, such as careerjournal.com and realestatejournal.com, each of which liberates some WSJ content from behind its paid wall and supplements it with other targeted content. [Truth told, I had no idea those sites existed until I poked around at the bottom of the Marketwatch site. How on earth did I not know that All Things Digital pushed Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher outside the WSJ paid wall? I deserve my own paddle-whipping for that.]

I’ll continue to monitor other Murdoch Web operations as the, how you say, “synergy” builds. But in the meantime I’d like to call your attention to MarketWatch analyst Jon Friedman’s Media Web column, a strong-minded but carefully written version of “What Will Rupert Do?”

It would be foolish to expect that as D-J settles into the News Corp. fold, any of its properties, in print or online, will provide tough-minded coverage of the company. Media outlets’ claims that they “cover themselves like they cover any other company” are frankly some of the most transparently false, eyeroll-inducing statements you’ll hear in the business world.

But we can at least hope that Murdoch will keep the sensibilities of his wide array of products distinct. If News Corp. rolls out a Web TV program where a panel of three Barron’s judges seated in front of Coke cups make pass-or-fail decisions on entrepreners’ quick business pitches, someone will have to paddle-whip Rupert’s butt.

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Rupert 2.0

11, July, 2007

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!