Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dow Jones Gets Crowned by Murdoch Management: Keeping up with Globalizing Business Media Competitors

Were we surprised that Dow Jones CEO Richard Zannino will be stepping aside for News International executive chairman Les Hinton, key exec for New Corp's business and mainstream news operations?

Nope.

Was it any small surprise that Gordon Crovitz, President of Dow Jones Consumer Media and the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, would be leaving along with Zannino?

Hardly.

With a changing of the guard at the top of News Corp expected and Murdoch itchy to start transforming his new property to compete with other quickly moving global news outlets it only makes sense for Richard and Gordon to move on ASAP. This is of course no reflection on their ability to guide one of the world's premium business content brands into a highly profitable stance in the business media marketplace. This duo has to be credited with managing to maintain both an institution and a highly profitable and growing audience through some of the most challenging times in publishing history. But the new boss in town rivals New York Yankees baseball "Boss" George Steinbrenner for his fixation on goals and results. Lip service to tradition, yes, but hitting your mark comes first.

The goal: build the most sophisticated and recognized global brand of business news that can be wrapped around leading executives' decision-making processes in whatever context matters most to them and to monetize it in whatever way hits the bottom line best. Pride in subscription online portals and "the value of real journalism" be damned, it's the first to crack this converging marketplace that wins the gold. And Murdoch is not alone. With Reuters teaming up with The New York Times' International Herald Tribune to deliver business news in IHT's global daily news outlet and Bloomberg, LP choosing a media investments specialist for its top spot the marketplace for business media and information is shaping up to be increasingly complex. Add on The New York Times' stellar traffic growth since dropping its subscription firewall
and it's anyone's game to build a new dominant position in business news and information services.

The odd leg out in this discussion so far, though, is Dow Jones Enterprise Media, AKA Factiva plus the remnants of Dow Jones' enterprise feeds business. The opportunity is for News Corp to enable a more aggressive melding of enterprise and media services as the differences between today's business media outlets and today's enterprise portals begin to narrow. No word yet as to whether Clare Hart is expected to move on, but with relatively little expertise within News Corp in managing subscription business information database services she may wind up being a well-positioned player - that is, if some of the industry's other merging interests don't tantalize her more than playing NewsCorp Survivor. With an established global base of clients Factiva is likely to become an important fulcrum as NewsCorp tries to leverage its way further into global business information circles.

There's a lot yet to unfold in this fascinating merger, but already we can see that promises of journalistic integrity in Murdoch's world view are not synonymous with the status quo for journalists in any sense of the word. In may ways this may turn out to be a great plus, as Dow Jones journalists get to play out their careers in an increasingly sophisticated global marketplace. In the meantime it's time for U.S. business journalists of all stripes to recognize that as much as they have been biting the hand that's fed them pretty well all these recent years this hand has been mightily slow in creating better long-term career options for them. Certainly not everyone will be happy with these impending changes at Dow Jones and some "old guard" insight is surely going to be lost along with this increased global nimbleness but there's no time to waste if NewsCorp is to make the most of the Dow Jones family of content brands. In this landscape the purity of outdated methods can be no match for the purity of mastering new ones.
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