Saturday, October 18

Too hard to call?

Another update on The Australian's top-of-page strap heading across its news coverage of the economic crisis (see posts earlier this week).

Perhaps the Oz's editors have decided it's too hard to call between the "long slow crash of '08" and "the road to recovery". In today's Weekend Australia, the page of economic news reports carries no strap at all.

Perhaps Rupert Murdoch had a word with them. As Sydneysiders prepared their breakfasts this morning, their ABC news was carrying the first brief reports of his address to News Corporation's annual meeting in the US. Here are a few pars:

News Corporation chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch says the US could be heading into a prolonged economic downturn.

Mr Murdoch has told News Corporation's annual shareholder meeting the global financial crisis and a slowing US economy were already having an impact on the company. He said advertising revenue had fallen and the News Corporation share price had been beaten down.

Mr Murdoch expressed fears the US was about to enter a prolonged economic downturn, but stressed News Corporation was well positioned to weather the slowdown due to its $5 billion in cash reserves.

Meanwhile, Mr Murdoch continues to pour money into developing what is becoming the world's biggest integrated business and economic news empire. The big push began last year with his acquisition of The Wall Street Journal and its associated financial wire services.

Then he opened News Ltd's cheque book to poach the top financial journalists from The Australian Financial Review and other Fairfax papers. He didn't get them all, but enough came over to take his already talented team ahead of any competition. (Interesting to note that Fairfax management exempted the Fin from their "business improvement program", ie, staff redundancies and cost-cutting.)

Yesterday, the Oz launched the deal (note the trendy lower case), one of those glossy inserted business magazines designed for luxury goods advertisers, and it wasn't a bad effort at all.

The Business section of today's Weekend Australian launches a new business website which appears to be the equal of any I've seen. The site,, is comprehensive, well organised and easily navigated.

The site is free, but one wonders whether the long-term aim is a service which will attract paid subscriptions. Mr Murdoch has been of two minds about charging for access to his online business newspapers.

When he bought The Wall Street Journal, he announced the highly regarded online edition at would become free, but soon changed his mind. Today, he told his shareholders that maintaining a "subscription wall" at was the best way to sustain revenue growth for the site. "Since it was acquired,'s audience has surged 90 per cent," he said.

Access to much, but not all, of the Fin Review's online service,, requires a paid subscription. It's my guess Murdoch will keep his Australian business website free for as long as it gives a competitive advantage against the Fin, then will move to a paid subscription model with some limited free access.

In this article today, The Australian's editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell explains many of the features of the new website, and provides a link for even more details.

Oh, about top-of-page strap headings: The printed Australian newspaper's business section continues today with its own wording, "Global Financial Crisis".

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