Murdoch: WSJ’s new section “will cover everything that makes New York great”

From Rupert Murdoch‘s remarks to the Real Estate Board of New York

Now let me talk about newspapers. In some ways newspapers have problems similar to those of our big cities. All across America, city newspapers are cutting back on coverage, with shrinking staffs and shrinking newspapers. Then these same newspapers set up websites where they give away their most valuable commodity – content – for free. That’s no way to do business.

People tell me you can’t charge for news. I think they are making the same mistake some make with cities, confusing costs for value. It’s true that people will not pay for mediocre reporting – or for reporting that speaks to the pet causes of an editor rather than the most pressing interests and concerns of the readers. News is like anything you want to sell: if you want people to buy it, you have to give them something they value.

How do you measure value? Let me give some examples that speak to your own interests.

The New York Post offers the most valuable real estate coverage in this city. That may sound like bragging. But as [the famous baseball player] Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.” Week in, week out – the Post backs it up.

On the residential side, the Post’s “home section” is Thursday’s must-read. Unlike the competition, we include photos that tell you exactly what that one-bedroom Upper East Side really looks like.

On the commercial side, Lois Weiss and Steve Cuozzo rule the roost. Lois is an industry legend – she knows everybody and everything. Not a single square foot of commercial space is bought, sold, leased or sub-leased without her knowing about it. An ad we once ran in Journal explained our coverage this way: “Lois Weiss. Steve Cuozzo. Your lawyer. Three people who know way too much about your business.”

It’s not just our reporting. The Post is famous for bringing the high and mighty down a peg or two with the creative use of Photoshop in our business pages. But we also like to give the real estate world the first glimpse of world-class architecture. We were first to publish images of a number of new buildings, including Larry Silverstein’s new residential towers on West 42nd Street and Extell’s International Gem Tower on West 47th.

As one developer told one of our editors, he gets four times the response when he advertises in the New York Post than he does when he advertises with the Times. That’s what I mean about content and value. The Post content shows how important real estate is to our economy – and we give value by making property move.

Now, I’ve always believed that competition starts at home. So in the next few weeks, one of our other papers will be giving the Post some competition on their home turf. I’m talking about the Wall Street Journal.

You’ve probably already read a little about the new section on New York we’ll be launching next month. Let me tell you how different that alone makes us. I challenge you to find a story about newspapers today that isn’t about reducing coverage, laying off reporters, or cutting back on delivery services. When you open up a paper today, the most depressing news is often about newspapers themselves.

Here in New York, we’re doing just the opposite. We’re adding a whole new section and taking on reporters and editors. We believe that in its pursuit of journalism prizes and a national reputation, a certain other New York daily has essentially stopped covering the city the way it once did. In so doing, they have mistakenly overlooked the most fascinating city in the world – and left the interests and concerns of people like you far behind them. I promise you this: The Wall Street Journal will not make that mistake.

I can’t tell you all the details. I can tell you that the new section will be full color – and it will be feisty. It will cover everything that makes New York great: state politics, local politics, business, culture, and sports. Oh yes – and real estate. Why are we expanding where others are pulling back? Because we take a different view of technology and value. Too many newspaper editors and owners are afraid that technology is harming the value of our product. The truth is just the opposite: technology is putting a premium on content.

Think of it this way: What would your wide-screen TV be without films and shows to watch? What are iPods without music? What are Kindles and e-readers without books and newspapers to read on them? And what value do Blackberries and iPhones have without the information you want to access?

The answer is this: Without content, all these beautiful devices are empty as an orchestra without a musical score.

Technology has not reduced the demand for information. But it has given customers more tools to get what they want – and avoid what they don’t want. For those of us in the news business, the answer to this challenge is the same thing that has always made newspapers great: The bond we have with our readers and subscribers.

Let me end with a story. The New York Post is almost as old as this nation. It was founded by Alexander Hamilton at a meeting of investors in what is now Gracie Mansion. In its maiden issue, the editorial columns proclaimed that “the design of this paper is to diffuse among the people correct information on all interesting subjects.” And they proved it, with political stories … coverage of new books and pamphlets … and timely information about ship arrivals and sailings – critical information for many merchants.

More than 200 years later, New York is still here, the New York Post is still here, the Wall Street Journal is here — and any successful newspaper still has the same challenge: to provide our readers with news and entertainment they find interesting, timely, and compelling. We can fret about costs forever. At News Corporation, we’re making our bet on providing value. Thank you for listening.

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