Archive for the ‘Murdoch’ Category

Murdoch’s News of the World legacy

July 8, 2011
Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch on Guardian website

What will be Rupert Murdoch’s legacy in terms of newspapers in Britain? With the Sun, Times, Sunday Times and News of the World he had the most powerful newspaper group in Britain. He’s a throwback to the great twentieth century Fleet St barons – I’ve read of Northcliffe describing the young Murdoch as his favourite newspaperman.

He fought off Robert Maxwell to win control of News of the World and use it as the international stepping stone to form the world’s first global media group. His reputation for media innovation is unrivalled. However, today’s Machiavellian decision to close the News of the World throws a 168-year history, 200 journalists – and some legendary campaigning journalism – on the scrapheap.

Yet, even though Murdoch has acted with unprecedented speed to try to halt the damage, more is undoubtedly still to come. The fallout – a Rupertgate or Jamesgate – could leave the Murdoch name lying alongside those of Maxwell and a corrupt media mogul of the early 1900s, Horatio Bottomley.

Britain's most famous front page - the Sun's Gotcha

Britain’s most famous front page – the Sun’s Gotcha

But Rupert brought us the topless redtop style of the Sun with its Page 3, along with Kelvin MacKenzie, and headlines such as ‘Gotcha’ and ‘Freddie Starr: I ate my hamster’ – as well as the later ‘Freddie Starr: I ‘ate my wife’ . And England team manager Graham Taylor as a turnip. How many other front or back pages are as well known? But that paper also plumbed the depths with its Hillsborough coverage – an example of falling in with the police – and is still paying the price in terms of its sales on Merseyside.

Murdoch took over the Times (on a Friday, the 13th), and took it downmarket, shafting Harry Evans in the process, though he has bankrolled it to the tune of tens of millions a year for a while now.

His papers helped to turn round the fortunes of Margaret Thatcher when she was unpopular in her first years in power. The Sunday Times was hagiographic here, portraying her on the front of its magazine as Joan of Arc. Murdoch’s HarperCollins book arm later published Thatcher’s memoirs. And the Sun is seen as having saved John Major from electoral defeat in 1992 with its vitriolic campaign against Neil Kinnock – ‘If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights’ ran the front page on polling day.

Andrew Neil, looking on BBC TV these days as if his whole body is on botox, was working for Murdoch when he bought us never-mind-the-quality-feel-the-width journalism at the Sunday Times and adverts to recruit reporters who could write at length on any topic. That has certainly done journalism no good. As Matthew Engel writes in the British Journalism Review, ‘Over the past ten years the quantity has remained relatively stable,’ but ‘what worries me now is the quality.’ He was writing about newspaper sports pages in general, but it’s an argument that can be made for the rest of the Sunday Times.

Mirabelle launch cover

Mirabelle launch cover

Murdoch failed to make much headway in magazines (remember the embarrassing Mirabelle?), but brought us Sky TV and the Simpsons – though ruined the game of football in the process.

He is also one of the world’s most successful tax avoiders, managing to make billions in profits but using complex offshore company structures to avoid paying tax.

But the activities at the News of the World take us back to Hillsborough in terms of awfulness. For the editor and executives to say they did not know what was going on is no defence. They should have known. The paper was, as Rosie Boycott said on Newsnight, ‘200 miles into illegality’.  To be paying £100K to private eye Glen Mulcaire and not know what he was doing just beggars belief.  Phone-hacking comes under the RIPA Act – Regulation of Investigatory Powers 2000.  It’s what was used to jail News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and Mulcaire.

Boards of directors are paid to be responsible and ignorance is no defence under the law. It’s difficult to see Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson going quietly. Bigger fish than Mulcaire and Goodman are going to come into the frame.

IPad: sales hit PCs; Murdoch’s Daily delay; mag apps slump

January 13, 2011

In a report on PC sales, IDC has said ‘Growth steadily slowed throughout 2010 as weakening demand and competition from the Apple iPad constrained PC shipments’.

The FT backs this up with a Gartner study, saying: ‘IDC and Gartner, in separate reports issued on Wednesday, said total shipments were less than previous projections.’

IDC estimates that about 17m tablets were shipped by manufacturers in 2010, most of them from Apple, and that figure is expected to reach 44m in 2011, alongside 385m PCs.

Poynter is showing a house ad for Rupert Murdoch’s Daily iPad-only newspaper, which was to be launched by Murdoch and Apple’s Steve Jobs, says Roy Greenslade, but today’s Guardian says the launch as been set back several weeks. Some wag is bound to dub it ‘The Daily delay’ if this carries on

And Monday’s Media Guardian analysis of iPad trends made disappointing reading for publishing seeking another revenue stream. ‘iPad apps – still more dash than cash’ by Jemima Kiss said:

Figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations in the US show average monthly downloads slumping by the end of 2010. Only two publishers were brave enough to share their figures.

Conde Nast and Rodale revealed that:

  • Wired US iPad magazine sold 73,000 copies through the app in its first nine days in May 2010 but that fell to 23,000 in November
  • Vanity Fair sold 10,500 in October but 8,700 in November
  • GQ’s average fell from 13,000 in October to 11,000
  • Men’s Health fell from 2,800 monthly shortly after the iPad launch to 2,000.

Developments in digital magazines

‘Raging’ Murdoch and ‘nerd’ Thomson take on NY Times

March 1, 2010

US magazine New York is running a big piece on Robert Thomson’s strategy for the Wall Street Journal under Rupert Murdoch:

‘It’s a spear-thrust right at the [New York] Times, intended to embarrass and bleed the Times,” a senior Journal editor explained’

Entitled ‘The Raging Septuagenarian’ with a standfirst ‘ Taking on the Times, Google, and, in a sense, his own children, Rupert Murdoch is not going gently into the night’, it runs to eight pages, so I’d recommend buying the mag rather than reading online.

Murdoch’s Sun v Gordon Brown

November 12, 2009

The Sun has laid into Gordon Brown with a ‘Don’t you know there’s a bloody war on?’ campaign, culminating in attacks over the PM’s alleged spelling errors in a handwritten note to Jacqui Janes.

The FT reports a poll yesterday suggesting the Sun’s campaign could backfire:

Some 65 per cent of respondents to a PoliticsHome poll characterised the tabloid’s coverage as “inappropriate” rather than legitimate journalism and 48 per cent said they were more inclined to defend the prime minister as a result.

But this isn’t the first time the Sun would have called the public mood wrong on a big issue. The biggest error was probably the attacks on the Queen after the paper published the text of her Christmas speech before it had been broadcast. The paper ran its own phone poll – which the Queen won hands-down. Six months later, editor Kelvin McKenzie had left.

Murdoch to close London free sheet

August 20, 2009

Daily Mail & General Trust looks to have won its battle with James Murdoch- controlled News International after the latter announced it was to close The London Paper.

Daily Mail owner DMGT reacted to Murdoch’s launch by launching London Lite to protect its Metro morning freesheet, which also has editions outside the capital,  though it ended up having to sell its paid-for Evening Standard to Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev.

The battle has echoes in DGMT’s strategy in seeing off  the London Daily News in 1987, when it relaunched the Evening News against Robert Maxwell’s upstart.

Murdoch, a spike and a Pick

February 12, 2009

A few years ago, I stayed with a friend who was renting a house in the West Country. In my bedroom was a pile of Country Life magazines. I flicked through a copy and as I put it back, I read the label stuck on the back – it was marked for Rupert Murdoch. As was the rest of the pile – every one had been Murdoch’s personal copy at New International.

What was going on?

I quizzed my host. He said the house had been previously rented by Lady Pickering. The name rang a bell and it came to me over a pint in a Bath pub that evening – ‘Pick’ Picking.

Edward (‘Pick’ or ‘Ted’) Pickering was one of the ‘spike’ of Daily Express editors, he being the fourth and successor to Arthur Christiansen (‘Pick’ had been managing editor since 1951). He took over ‘The World’s Greatest Newspaper’ for Beaverbrook and increased sales to 4.5 million copies a day (1957-62). The paper’s glamour was confirmed when its iconic offices in Fleet Street were used for the 1961 film The Day the Earth Caught Fire, with Christiansen playing the editor.

Pickering then went into management, and held the chairmanships of IPC’s newspaper division, its magazines and then Mirror Group. He was later knighted.

In retirement, he became a long-time confidante of Rupert Murdoch – whom he had trained on the sub’s desk at the Express in the 1950s. (What are newspapers going to do for future editors now they’re getting rid of subs? They must reckon they’re not going to be around long enough to need any more.)

I chuckled over my beer to think of Pickering pinching Rupert’s magazines to give to his missus.

The Guardian’s Media Monkey mentions another side to Murdoch as his mum turns 100 (which reminded me of an early scene in Slumdog Millionaire – see it if you haven’t already). ‘A family friend told the Daily Mail: “Dame Elisabeth is the only person Rupert has ever been scared of – I remember her ticking him off for playing bridge badly and him apologising like a small boy.”‘

Pickering obitary

Hirings and many firings at the Black Lubyanka – the Express had five editors in 61 years but after that they came and went like modern-day football managers

Murdoch ‘set to close consumer magazine arm’

June 19, 2008

TV GUide 1989Mirabella 1990Elle in 1990INside OUt 2006love it! 2006
Four Murdoch magazines that have come and gone – now Love It! is under threat

News International is understood to be set to close its consumer magazine division, after it made a loss of nearly £10m, Media Week reports.

The Chelsea-based unit was set up in 2005 to launch women’s weekly Love It! Plans for other mooted titles, such as a news weekly and a second women’s magazine failed to come to fruition. However, it did wrest the contract to publish seven million-circulation contract magazine Sky Magazine for its parent from John Brown. It also took back the contract for monthly paid-for title Sunday Times Travel from River Publishing.

If it does close the division, it won’t the first time Murdoch’s UK empire has lost enthusiasm for (and a lot of money on) magazines. In the mid-1980s it launched Elle, and Sky in partnership with Hachette, both of which were sold to Emap and Mirabella (launched 1990, closed 1991). TV Guide was another failed offering in that period.

More recently, Inside Out had another short tenure on the shelves (1996-97).

News Magazines profile

THES becomes THEM

January 13, 2008

TSL Education has relaunched the Times Higher Education Supplement as Times Higher Education magazine and given a new look to the website.

The title dates back to 1971 and the word ‘supplement’ refers to its being a spin-off from The Times. Rupert Murdoch’s News International sold TSL Education – which published the Times Educational Supplement (founded in 1910), the THES and Nursery World – to Exponent Private Equity in October 2005 for £235m. The Times supplements were seen as a highly profitable arm of Times Newspapers because of the classified advertising in the TES in particular. The group held on to the prestigious Times Literary Supplement (founded 1902).

In June, TSL sold Nursery World and its website to Haymarket.

Thompson to run Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal

December 7, 2007

Times editor Robert Thomson is to become publisher of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones after the takeover by Rupert Murdoch’s News International is finalised next week.

Business editor James Harding will replace Thomson at the Times and Les Hinton, executive chairman of News International, will become chief executive at Dow Jones.

James Murdoch, is to take on an expanded role as chairman and chief executive of News Corp Europe and Asia, based in London – making him favourite to succeed Peter Chernin running News Corp. FT video comment.

Times set for whopping change

December 6, 2007

The Guardian reports that a new Times editor could be appointed next week, freeing Robert Thomson to move over to the Wall Street Journal.