Thursday, October 18, 2007

Guardian Unlimited
Murdoch outlines drastic plans for WSJ
Bobbie Johnson, technology correspondent, in San Francisco
Thursday October 18, 2007

Guardian Unlimited

Rupert Murdoch has laid out drastic plans to shake up the Wall Street Journal and launch an assault on the mainstream American newspaper industry.

Mr Murdoch, who is set to complete his turbulent $5bn (£2.5bn) takeover of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones later this year, last night said he wanted to move the newspaper beyond its financial roots and target mainstream competitors such as the New York Times.

"We have a lot of plans and a lot of ideas that need to be refined," he told a conference in San Francisco. "But I want to improve it in every way: in what it does now in finance to start with, but I also want to add more national and international news."

The 76-year-old head of News Corporation also said he would like to increase the newspaper's coverage of cultural issues, in order to take advantage of the advertising opportunities available from the likes of movie studios.

"I want to add major coverage of the arts, fashion and culture," he added. When asked whether he was aiming to kill the New York Times, Mr Murdoch replied simply: "That would be nice."

The deal to take over Dow Jones - and acquire titles including the Wall Street Journal - was only agreed after a protracted tussle with members of the Bancroft family.

During negotiations, Mr Murdoch attempted to woo Dow Jones shareholders by promising he would not interfere with editorial decisions.

But with the deal almost complete – it is set to go through by December - Mr Murdoch said he planned to fit the Wall Street Journal in with News Corporation's other properties, including newspapers around the world and the Fox TV network.

He said he had progressive plans for the Fox Business Network, a dedicated US news channel for businesses which launched this week, and attacked competitors such as CNBC as "half dead".

The comments, made on stage at the annual Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, also underlined News Corp's increasing success on the internet. Responding to suggestions that investors in social networking website Facebook value that company at $15bn, Mr Murdoch said such figures would indicate that – the rival website he bought in 2005 for $580m – would be worth in the region of $50bn.

"What that really tells you is that News Corp is totally underpriced," he said. However he said he was discouraged from buying more internet properties thanks to inflated prices and demands from existing investors. "Everything's too expensive. We want a bigger presence, certainly, in the internet – but things are changing so fast, I don't know what things are going to be like in five years or 10 years. So why pay 30 times earnings for something?"

Mr Murdoch added that he was happy to hand over decisions over online business to lieutenants who understood the web. "The internet culture is different," he said. "We treat ourselves as trainees."