When Murdoch talks about the future of newspapers, you get a sense of how contemporary he really is. Circulation and advertising revenues are ebbing away everywhere, he notes, proportional to broadband penetration. “You’ve really got to worry,” he says. “Tribune Co.’s revenues [in May] dropped 11% across broadcasting and newspapers. That’s huge. The Times dropped 8.5%. Half of men under 30 aren’t reading print newspapers, and there’s no sign that they come back as they age.”
How does he respond to this bleak picture? By musing about investing even more in newspapers. “What if, at the Journal, we spent $100 million a year hiring all the best business journalists in the world? Say 200 of them. And spent some money on establishing the brand but went global — a great, great newspaper with big, iconic names, outstanding writers, reporters, experts. And then you make it free, online only. No printing plants, no paper, no trucks. How long would it take for the advertising to come? It would be successful, it would work and you’d make … a little bit of money. Then again, the Journal and the Times make very little money now.”
Ouch. For those of us working in the newspaper industry these are pretty harsh words. But then I and many others have been harping on about the decline of print newspapers for several years now. Increasing broadband penetration = declining newspaper buying. What is the cheapest way to publish? Online. Where are people increasingly reading? Online. Where should you be driving your readers? Online.
The traditional print industry is in real crisis in countries where broadband is increasing – the NYTimes figures speak for themselves. Online seems like the most obvious place to go.
But why does Murdoch want to buy the WSJ then? What has the WSJ got that Murdoch wants? Brand recognition, loyalty and history. He believes he can make money from it too. Online.
Since Ireland is so behind in the broadband stakes, it seems clear that Irish newspapers have extra time to adjust to the coming shift in readership. I just wonder if they will be ready.