Michael Wolff’s Newser keeps jabbing traditional media properties with a stick, hoping that they’ll eventually be dumb enough to drive millions of readers to the site by responding. And, so far, they have been!
Michael snookered the New York Times into threatening to sue him a couple of weeks ago. And now he’s tricked Robert Thomson, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, into calling Newser a “tapeworm.”
Robert Thomson, Murdoch’s editor of the Wall Street Journal, thinks Newser is a tapeworm. Newser and other news aggregators are “parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internet,” he told The Australian newspaper. This is doubly amusing to me because when I was writing my biography of Murdoch, I’d refer to Thomson, a smirking, sallow-faced Aussie with a fetishistic devotion to both Rupert Murdoch and skinny ties, as “the tapeworm.”
What Thomson means, of course, is that Newser and its fellow Internet news aggregators are eating the Journal’s lunch. And this is certainly true. Thomson is now part of the new old media backlash, which is suddenly, a day late and a dollar short, saying content ought to be paid for.
He’s even issuing strange, apocalyptic sorts of threats: “There is a collective consciousness among content creators that they are bearing the costs and that others are reaping some of the revenues—inevitably that profound contradiction will be a catalyst for action and the moment is nigh.”
It would, of course, have been smart if Thomson, along with his patron, Murdoch, had realised that the Journal and all other newspapers had technological competitors, tapeworms or otherwise, that would profoundly undermine the traditional news business before buying the WSJ. That deal cost Murdoch $5.6 billion in cash and another $30 billion in share price value, making it the most expensive newspaper in history and the biggest blunder of Murdoch’s career.
So Thomson is full of sour grapes. He clawed his way up to the top of the financial news pyramid, only to find it ready to turn to dust.