The New York Time's Richard Siklos wrote a profile of Rupert Murdoch that including some interesting details from a News Corp. executive offsite. He reported that the 76-year-old media mogul spent some quality time with 23-year-old Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at the Monterey, CA offsite, which was set up for his elite team to brainstorm about leading in the digital future. Siklos wrote: "For a while, he sat at the back of the ballroom chatting with Mr. Zuckerberg of Facebook, who sat next to him again at dinner. Mr. Murdoch listened closely."
Of course, many other big companies, such as Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, covet Facebook, which has about 22 million members and is growing into some choice demographics beyond college students, with lots of useful and monetizable data. Fox has the giant MySpace, could be considered a rival tribe to Facebook, but Murdoch seems to like having a large footprint by buying up multiple assets, such as newspapers and tabloids, in the same market.
I am just speculating about Murdoch's interest in Facebook, but with the media market going global and social, reaching billions of Internet users, there is no such thing have too much "shelf space." The pairing is a longshot given an IPO could turn Facebook into a mini Google type of phenomenon if the market doesn't tank and Zuckerberg's company is actually making serious money.
Murdoch's play for Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal is also part of a global business strategy, in which critical assets or Web territories inhabited by tens of millions of users, such as MySpace, Fox and hundreds of newspapers online, are enhanced by Internet efficiencies and scale. And, News Corp. recognizes that the new battleground is for the time and attention of people online, not those reading daily print newspapers.
In the NYT article, Siklos quotes Murdoch telling the execs at the offsite that the 175 newspapers in the News Corp. fold need to "share resources and move quickly in unison" to "take advantage of our global scale everywhere.” The 'sharing resources and moving quickly in unison' aspect is an immense challenge.
Sites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube thrive on creating unique experiences with a good dose of startup chaos and independence. Newspapers today are most relevant when they are local, and working in unison is not easy when resources are not always plentiful and different agendas and cultures across various properties and sites prevail. Does News Corp. intend to have a single technology platform and centralized services for all of its Web sites? That would tend to extinguish the "moving quickly in unison" part.
Clearly, Murdoch and company see dollars moving more to the Web and a more efficient means of monetization by aggregating user data and sharing resources. Is the idea to create an uber pool of multimedia content, driven by thousands of journalist/bloggers/producers/personalities that flow into personalized user buckets and feeds, and is distributed across various News Corp. entities? MySpace's 100 million monthly visitors meet the Times of London, Fox News, "American Idol," "Live Free or Die Hard" and maybe the "Wall Street Journal"...and maybe Facebook.
It's more of a mishmash than a mashup, but News Corp. does have strength in individual brands. It's not likely the visitors to News Corp. will want a portal, although I am sure many would like to mashup the mishmash of the content in interesting ways.
In a very short time span--just a few years--we are witnessing the struggle of the established media elite to adapt to the new digital media world, often buying their way in. Murdoch acquired MySpace in 2005 for $580 million and is planning to acquire Photobucket for about $300 million. Facebook, founded about three years ago, is worth a few billion on the open market, compared to $5 billion Murdoch is offering for Dow Jones. I wouldn't put it past the wily Murdoch to take a run at Yahoo's 500 million users if he really thinks that he could reach global Internet scale orbit and better leverage his current assets.