The Future of the WSJ, From Its Publisher

Includes: DJ, NWS
by: Felix Salmon

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 (DJ)future within News Corp (NASDAQ:NWS): 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 story.

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.