Geoff Manaugh on Sat, 16 Apr 2005 06:23:57 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Murdoch Sees: The Internet

Like watching a potato try to come up with something. A dream, a vision...
an acknowledgement of the internet? In 2005? Go, little potato! Little
billionaire potato! You're brilliant!
We ignore internet at our peril, Murdoch warns editors

Chris Tryhorn, City correspondent / Guardian (UK) / Thursday April 14, 2005

Rupert Murdoch has admitted he "didn't do as much as [he] should have" to
confront the digital challenges faced by his newspaper business, which owns
the Sun, Times and News of the World in the UK as well as titles in the US
and Australia.

Describing himself as a "digital immigrant" in contrast to his young
daughters, who would be "digital natives", he said the internet was "an
emerging medium that is not my native language".

In a speech to American editors in Washington, Mr Murdoch issued a stark
warning to the industry, arguing that the web was "a fast-developing
reality we should grasp".

He said consumers wanted "control over the media, instead of being
controlled by it", pointing to the proliferation of website diaries known
as "blogs" and message boards.

And newspaper editors simply cannot afford to ignore this, he said, or to
look down on readers or ignore what they actually wanted.

"I believe too many of us editors and reporters are out of touch with our
readers. Too often, the question we ask is 'Do we have the story?' rather
than 'Does anyone want the story?'"

"As an industry, most of us have been remarkably, unaccountably complacent,"
Mr Murdoch said.

"Certainly, I didn't do as much as I should have after all the excitement of
the late 1990s. I suspect many of you in this room did the same, quietly
hoping that this thing called the digital revolution would just limp away.

"Well it hasn't... it won't... and it's a fast-developing reality we should
grasp as a huge opportunity to improve our journalism and expand our

Mr Murdoch was one of the early pioneers in the internet in the mid-1990s
but rowed back in the late 1990s when the dotcom industry overheated with
billions of pounds squandered on ambitious but ultimately doomed dreams.

Now, however, the Sun is, along with the Guardian and the BBC, one of the
top 10 news websites in the UK but the online operations of the Times and
Telegraph, which have not received the same investment, are not ranked in
the top tier.

Mr Murdoch, who recently held a summit with his newspaper bosses about
forging a new internet strategy, said the industry had "sat by and watched"
as circulations had fallen over the past 40 years, complacent because of
its historic monopoly on the news business.

A rise in population had masked a relative decline in the TV age, he said,
while in the 1990s profitability had held up in spite of circulations
falling, further lulling the industry into a false sense of security.

"But those days are gone," he warned. "The trends are against unless
we awaken to these changes, which are quite different to those of five or
six years ago, we will, as an industry, be relegated to the status of

Mr Murdoch's comments came as his News Corp empire, which has interests in
TV, film and newspapers, mulls how to best to approach the internet and new

Since the dotcom bubble burst, News Corp has concentrated its online efforts
around its newspapers in the UK and Australia and its film and television
holdings in the US.

Mr Murdoch, who turned 74 last month, admitted it was hard for "digital
immigrants" like him to get to grips with the challenge of the internet.

"The peculiar challenge then, is for us digital immigrants - many of whom
are in positions to determine how news is assembled and disseminated - to
apply a digital mindset to a set of challenges that we unfortunately have
limited to no first-hand experience dealing with.

"We need to realise that the next generation of people accessing news and
information, whether from newspapers or any other source, have a different
set of expectations about the kind of news they will get, including when
and how they will get it, where they will get it from, and who they will
get it from."

He said consumers between the ages of 18-34 were increasingly using the web
as their medium of choice for news and neglected more traditional media.

Young people's attitudes towards newspapers were "especially alarming", he
said. "Only 9% describe us as trustworthy, a scant 8% find us useful, and
only 4% of respondents think we're entertaining."

He described the shift in attitudes as "a revolution in the way young people
are accessing news".

"They don't want to rely on the morning paper for their up-to-date
information. They don't want to rely on a God-like figure from above to
tell them what's important. And to carry the religion analogy a bit
further, they certainly don't want news presented as gospel."

But in spite of the gloomy picture he painted, Mr Murdoch said he was still
confident about the future of the news business. "The data may show that
young people aren't reading newspapers as much as their predecessors, but
it doesn't show they don't want news. In fact, they want a lot of news,
just faster news of a different kind and delivered in a different way."

He said he wanted to turns newspapers into "destinations" that rivalled the
success of the internet portals, "the Yahoos, Googles, and MSNs".

"The challenge for us... is to create an internet presence that is
compelling enough for users to make us their home page. Just as people
traditionally started their day with coffee and the newspaper, in the
future, our hope should be that for those who start their day online, it
will be with coffee and our website."

The migration of readers online was also affecting advertising revenues, Mr
Murdoch said. "The threat of losing print advertising dollars to online
media is very real. In fact, it's already happening, particularly in

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