Rupert Murdoch's media empire produces news, but he also has a habit of making it himself. Most recently, he was a headline-creator when he stated he'd be pulling his websites out of Google's index.
Journalism in the 21st century is clearly something that matters a lot to Murdoch, both financially and personally. And in an op-ed piece in his own Wall Street Journal, Murdoch laid out his views on where he sees journalism going, and who needs to stay out of it.
The key points Murdoch makes are:
- Newspapers prospered through trust.
- The internet gives newspapers the ability to reach a far greater audience than ever before.
- Newspapers with declining circulation have editors who are producing news for themselves, not for their readers.
- Consumers want to access newspaper content on a multitude of devices.
- Quality content isn't free and ad-supported business models will never work again.
- Aggregators freeload off the investment and labor of content creators but they will soon have to pay "a fair but modest price" for it.
- The government should stay out of journalism by reducing regulation and refraining from bailing out failed news institutions.
While he notes that many newspapers and news organizations will not adapt to changing times and therefore inevitably go under, Murdoch thinks "the future of journalism is more promising than ever".
Love him or hate him, there's a lot to like in what Murdoch writes. He wisely recognizes that the economics of running a newspaper have changed forever, and on paid content he understands what a lot of other newspaper execs clearly don't: that consumers won't pay if there's no value. His position on aggregators won't win him any new fans in some tech circles but if he thinks his content is being stolen, who can blame him for defending his interests? And finally, he makes it clear how he feels about government-as-savior for journalism: if you're struggling and want a bailout, it's because your product sucks.
Murdoch ends his op-ed with the following:
Our modern world is faster moving and far more complex than theirs. But the basic truth remains: To make informed decisions, free men and women require honest and reliable news about events affecting their countries and their lives. Whether the newspaper of the future is delivered with electrons or dead trees is ultimately not that important. What is most important is that the news industry remains free, independent—and competitive.
There's very little complaining here, and Murdoch essentially wants to be left alone to do what he does best: make news, and make money. If that's all there is to it, why should anyone stand in his way?
Photo credit: mark00 via Flickr.