News Corp. barely mentioned Dow Jones/WSJ in its earnings release, but it took up a big chunk of the conference call. Especially once my colleagues in the press got going. Three takeaways:
Murdoch absolutely intends to set WSJ.com free. He didn’t say that of course, and made appropriate noises about debates going on at both Dow Jones (like those matter anymore!) and News Corp. Then he said that he thought taking the Journal, or most of it, free would be expensive short term but may be “wonderful” long term. He’s doing it. Let’s move on from the debate.
News Corp. doesn’t need WSJ to launch its business channel. It’s locked up with CNBC for five years, and they don’t seem inclined to fight for it. News Corp. COO Peter Chernin says he’s confident Fox Business Channel will already be “differentiated” from CNBC when it launches this fall. More important, News Corp. already has the key element to launch the channel: Access to more than 30 million subscribers. How did Murdoch get those? Not by promising cable operators he’d have access to the Wall Street Journal’s reporters and analysis. By leveraging the success of Fox News when that channel’s carriage agreements came up in the last few years.
The WSJ will be hiring, not firing. There is going to be an exodus of reporters from the paper in the near-term, and Rupert won’t fight hard to keep them. “People who’ve been saying it’s against their principles to work for me, we’ll certainly respect that” he deadpanned. “But we’ll be in a hiring mode.” Of course he will — Rupert bought WSJ because he wants to expand it, and that’s going to require bodies. And in an era where print reporters are looking at shrinking job prospects, he’ll have plenty of applicants.