June 30, 2011

BBC | ASNE Speech
Shortly before he bought MySpace in 2005, Rupert Murdoch shared his thoughts on the digital age in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

At the time, the BBC reported on News Corporation’s purchase of
MySpace. They also offered an analysis of Murdoch’s speech and his
company’s past attempts with online technology. Jeremy Scott-Joynt wrote:

“Just three months ago, news magnate Rupert Murdoch made an unusual admission.

He had realised, he told a high-powered audience at the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington DC, that he had got something rather important rather wrong.

News Corporation, the global media group he controls, had failed properly to engage with the online world – and risked losing its hard-won position in news as a result.

As a ‘digital immigrant’ – as he described himself – he acknowledged he found it difficult to visualise how News Corp should change its ways. But he had no doubt that radical change was coming, and that it was inevitable.

Commentators took the unusual ‘mea culpa’ as a sign that News Corp was gearing up for a wholesale revamp of its approach to the Internet.

On 19 July, what appears to be the first really substantive part of the new strategy swung into action: the purchase, for $580m, of the firm behind the wildly popular Myspace.com online community.

Cynics may charge that Mr. Murdoch has been here before.

In 1999, another keynote speech laid out lofty ambitions for News Corp online – only for several well-financed operations to close down within months of their launch.

Before that came failed initiatives such as Delphi Internet in the mid-1990s, an online service which mingled News Corp’s UK content with US material and failed to capture anyone’s imagination, and an abortive internet service provider experiment called LineOne.

Business Insider’s Chart on the Fall of MySpace

And now almost six years after this BBC article was written, MySpace,
like Delphi before it, is being sold.

When he bought MySpace Rupert Murdoch failed to deal with the
threats posed by Facebook and others, but his ASNE speech shows that as of 2005 he was at least thinking of the potential online challenges ahead:

“Technology has traditionally been an asset to the newspaper business. It has in the past allowed us to improve our printing, helped us collect and transmit the news faster and cheaper – as well as reach people we never could reach before. So of all the trials that face
newspapers in the 21st century, I fear technology – and our response to it – is by no means our only challenge.

What I worry about much more is our ability to make the necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands. As I said earlier, what is required is a complete transformation of the way we think about our product. Unfortunately, however, I believe too many of us editors and reporters are out of touch with our readers.”

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