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Why Bancrofts May Say ‘Yes’ to Murdoch

Posted on Thursday, Jun 7th 2007

Rupert Murdoch wants Dow Jones. The Bancroft family realizes that they are falling behind. Even though, they own the Wall Street Journal, America’s most important business newspaper and website, they have not been able to capitalize on the brand enough amidst upheavals due to the Internet. Murdoch sees the opportunity to build a global Business & Finance brand, and clearly, there is no other brand as powerful in the category as WSJ.

Lay of the land

CNNMoney, Time Warner’s Business and Finance site, for example, is #1 in the category in terms of Unique Visitors (8.2 M vs 3.4 M for WSJ.com), Page Views (145 M vs 51 M for WSJ.com) and Gross Usage Minutes (140 M vs 56 M for WSJ.com). Other sites like Forbes.com and Businessweek.com also do better than WSJ.com in terms of Unique Visitors. Forbes even has better Page View statistics. Marketwatch, however, is also a Dow Jones property, and does quite well, appearing at #3 in all 3 categories. In fact, the combination of WSJ.com and Marketwatch gets quite close in numbers to CNNMoney, which itself is a combination of all of Time Inc.’s Business & Finance imprints (Fortune, Business 2.0, Fortune Small Business, CNNMoney, etc.).

A simple yet profoundly impactful strategy would be to blend Marketwatch into the WSJ brand, and present it as a unified media property. Other things that Murdoch would obviously do is leverage his experience in television, and make it a multi-channel, multi-media outlet. These are obvious next steps.

The Less Obvious Next Steps?

The less obvious portion of the WSJ / DJ re-engineering, I imagine, needs to include a solid strategy around User Generated Content. Today, if you look at the bottom of the journal articles, they link to blogs that have discussions of their pieces. It’s a functionality powered by Technorati or Sphere, various blog search engines.

The problem is that WSJ doesn’t seem to understand how to monetize all the discussion that it stimulates through its reporting all over the internet. Every piece of their Anchor Content inevitably generates zillions of pieces of User Generated Content in the blogosphere. This is Content that the Journal should bring within its fold, as part of a Network.

There are many other such subtle details that could easily send the journal’s level of user engagement through the roof, which perhaps the Bancrofts realize are not exactly within their realm of expertise. Murdoch, however, has proved himself to be quite new media savvy. MySpace, Photobucket, the bid for the WSJ – these are great moves.

Murdoch gets it. I think, the Bancrofts get it as well, that he does!

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