Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Metamorphosis of the WSJ

Our Lunch Address was by the Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray. He's a really engaging speaker, definitely loved the talk. Here are some topics he covered:

On moving online:
I feel like I've had a great career and a lot of great opportunities, but I have never felt as interested in or engaged in what I'm doing as right now.
On blogs:
I think that some of the best reporting we've done over the past year has been in our real time columns.
According to Murray, these blogs (and the website's 24/7 online coverage) have been really effective in responding to the economic crisis when things often change dramatically in an instant.

On commenters:

Commenting on the WSJ site is a little unusual in that it only takes comments from subscribers whose real names are posted. Murray suggested that accountability helped create really instructive conversations through reader comments.
Some of the information in the comments is better than the information in the story...[Their comments keep] you honest, it keeps you straight
Before we thought we knew our readers, but "today, we hear from them all the time," Murray said, "and the conversation with the readers has been great . . . hundreds of thousands [of people have] left comments on the websites."

If you're a WSJ commenter, know that WSJ reporters do read your comments! WSJ reporters have started paying more attention to the online edition than the print edition.

On twittering:
Twitter has been pretty effective in calling attention to things people might not otherwise see. Follow him on Twitter here.
On the newspaper business:

Murray said the business model has completely collapsed. Before, newspapers had a monopoly on the family. Today, however, more people are getting their news from online than print newspapers.

Readership of print papers has clearly gone down, but advertising revenue has gone down faster.
Online advertising has gone up, but it's not replacing print advertising because
for every dollar you get from the reader in print, you get at best a quarter maybe a dime online...[since] most newspapers don't get any subscription revenue online. It's a really brutal, brutal environment.
Murray said it's important to realize that newspapers are kind of a silly and inefficient means of distributing information. It takes lots of gas, paper, etc. for something that ends up lining your bird cage. It's totally useless when things change so quickly.

On journalism:

Murry added that we should care about preserving...good journalism, articles written in a disinterested way. He worries about about partisan press, so it's important to keep a commitment to well written facts.
I do think we're involved in a metamorphosis. We're going from a caterpillar to a butterfly.
As long as people value good journalism, we'll find a way to make a business out of it.

On Rupert Murdoch:

Murray explained that although many worried that he would use the WSJ for ideological reasons like Fox News, but "there's just not any indication of that in the past year in a half."

WSJ's editorial page was already farther to the right than Murdoch.

He suggested that the ideology of Fox News may have been inspired more by Roger Ailes than Murdoch.
I've never met a human being who loves newspapers more than...Murdoch.
The fear in NewsCorps is not that he'll use the WSJ to serve his other business interests, but that he's ignoring other business interests because he's really passionate about the Journal.

On television and his brief CNBC experience:

Murray said he was thrown into his CNBC show with no training, no preparation. "I walked in not knowing what the heck I was doing," said Murray.

He shared studio space with Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews. Matthews gave him the advice, "Oh you don't think, you just talk."

Cable television might be more partisan than newspapers because "the distinction between editorial and news is much less clear."

However, Fox News has taken a step back in shows like Special Report with Brit Hume and Fox News Sunday.

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