The Future of the WSJ

Gordon Crovitz, the publisher of the WSJ, appeared at the Future of Business

Media conference and did a reasonably good job of mumbling noncommitally about

Dow Jones’s future within News Corp: he clearly hasn’t yet signed on to the

Rupert Murdoch school of forthright public commentary.

That said, his analysis did seem a bit naive: I suspect that he lacks Murdoch’s

boldness of vision. He still has the old Dow Jones point of view, where Dow

Jones Newswires will break a public story (an earnings report, say), the website

will then move it along, and finally the Wall Street Journal comes along the

following morning and adds value, analysis and a broader perspective to the


My feeling is that a free will do all that and then some: that it will

branch out into multimedia, and, crucially, content created by people who don’t

work for Dow Jones or News Corp at all – not just’s readers, but

also other news sites and, yes, blogs. The editors of the newspaper have a few

journalists to add value; the editors of the website can find that added value

in thousands of different places, and can emphasize it according to its merit,

rather than according to its provenance. In a few years, it will be increasingly

common to click on a headline on a news site and find yourself taken to a different

site entirely. And similarly, other news sites will be using and linking to content. As Devin Wenig of Reuters put it, "everybody’s going to

be monetizing in each others’ space".

Crovitz did admit that the Bancrofts had held Dow Jones back: "NewsCorp

is an enormous company, with investment timeframes much longer than we’ve ever

been able to contemplate," he said. He was clearly excited about being

part of such a rich company: "If the highest-paid journalists don’t work

at Dow Jones, where would they work? We ought to pay the most. I would expect

there to be significant investments in the Journal, including in the journalists."

That’s great news, especially insofar as it means a major investment in China.

Right now the WSJ and the FT and Bloomberg and Shinhua Financial are all competing

to become the leading site providing domestic Chinese business news to a Chinese

audience – news which will of course be invaluable, once translated, to

an international audience as well. Up until now, there was no chance that Dow

Jones would really be able to seize this opportunity. Under Murdoch’s ownership,

the battle is surely now the WSJ’s to lose.

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