Fortune senior editor David Kirkpatrick writes that the voluminous coverage of News Corp.’s proposed $5 billion offer for Dow Jones & Co. virtually ignores what he considers the company’s trophy business. It’s not The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s or Marketwatch, but the online operations.
Kirkpatrick wrote, “Of course, Murdoch knows how to run papers as well as anybody. And he will take control of the Journal with gusto I’m sure (and I suspect, contrary to what many say, with respect for its editorial independence and traditions). But this is also the man, more than others in his generation who run big media companies, who has shown he understands how deeply the media world is changing as the Internet’s grip grows stronger. And Murdoch’s big-picture view is the key to his success and greatness.”
Later, he added, “But I believe building an online business that way is making a pact with the devil. Information online is a world of links – a collective dialogue among numerous sources and speakers. When you close off a news site with a wall that is only crossed when a reader pays, you remove its content from that collective dialogue. Over the past few years, it has seemed to me that the relative weight and importance of the Journal’s editorial content has diminished as other voices – both institutional and individual – have emerged online. WSJ.com has not been part of the freewheeling interactive conversation of the Web.
“Furthermore, WSJ.com can’t fully participate in the big money play online, advertising revenue, because it deliberately limits traffic to its site with its subscription model. It gives up a potentially very large monetizable audience by hiding behind a pay wall. Granted, people will pay for news that helps them make money. But while it’s possible to envision a global Journal-branded news site of almost MySpace scale, it’s a mistake to imagine that very many people will pay for it.”
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