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Rupert Murdoch is a terrible businessman


Photo: Independent Australia

Rupert Murdoch hates the ABC. This is obviously not a hugely surprising statement. And I also can’t say I’m that surprised that one of Murdoch’s most obedient puppets, Cori Bernardi, has been using the ABC’s factual analysis of a political story about spying to call for funding cuts to the ABC. On behalf of the commercial interests of Murdoch. In the same vein as the Abbott government’s determination to destroy the National Broadband Network, to make sure super-fast broadband doesn’t provide Australian consumers with a competitive internet TV service to rival Murdoch’s Foxtel monopoly, Bernardi is using his political power to find ways to do commercial favours for Murdoch. Fair enough too – it’s not like Murdoch’s media campaign to elect Abbott as Prime Minister should go unrewarded. Isn’t that how the world works – you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours?

The Abbott government’s concern for the commercial interests of Murdoch are very touching – the spirit of mate-ship is alive and well. But what I’m not seeing talked about is just how bad a businessman Murdoch is. You see, the only reason he needs the Abbott government to corruptly defend his business interests, is because his business model is broken. He doesn’t have the business acumen and foresight to innovate, and so instead, he has to use his old-boys-club of politicians, who he supports with political campaigns to ensure they are deeply indebted to them. And wasn’t Abbott the perfect choice. The perfect tool. Because Abbott’s values are so anti-innovation, anti-progressive, and completely and utterly fixed in trying to pull Australia backwards to the old days when middle-aged-white-men could be stupid and uncharismatic, but go to a private school and therefore have successful careers, that Murdoch found his kindred spirit. He doesn’t have the skills to innovate his newspaper business or to produce a quality product (hacking phones does not count as innovation), and he needed someone to try to stop his competitors from innovating ahead of him.

Murdoch loved the old days when the only people who could write the news were working for him. Murdoch loved the old days when you either had the newspaper delivered to you each morning, or you bought it from someone on a street corner on your way to work. The readers only had one option, and so did the advertisers. So they had to go with Murdoch’s paper, whether it was a quality product or not. The readers couldn’t talk back then. And they definitely couldn’t write anything themselves, unless it was a letter to the editor which the editor could decide to publish or not. Oh how Murdoch hates people like me. People who use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube to reach thousands of other like-minded people. People who couldn’t find quality articles to read on the internet, so decided to write them for ourselves, not for money, just because we enjoy it. While Murdoch is paying people to write articles which get only a handful of likes on Facebook, the independent media is churning out more free content that anyone has time to read, which can go viral at the click of a link on an iPhone. Perhaps if Murdoch was a good businessman, he would have worked out that people like Chris Kenny, and Grace Collier, and Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman and the rest of the Liberal Party propaganda squad might be ticking the box in their hatred of progressive political policy, but certainly are not good enough writers, or popular enough writers to draw readers to News Ltd sites. So why are they being paid?

In reality, the ABC shouldn’t be a threat to Murdoch. But it is, because it’s doing something his loss-making business hasn’t worked out how to do. The ABC is delivering news, and some opinion, in an online format that people want to read (and they are far from perfect, but also far better than News Ltd at doing this). Apparently Murdoch thinks this is unfair. Because the ABC doesn’t need to make a profit, he thinks they shouldn’t exist. But that’s not how the world of competition works Murdoch, in the capitalist economy you so admire. Because the truth is, if the ABC did have advertisements on it, and did have to make a profit to survive, it would still get more readers and therefore would make more money than News Ltd websites and newspapers. An advertisement is not going to put me off reading a quality article. I might even watch an advertisement video on a news website, if it was the only way I could access the quality content provided on the site. The reason I don’t read News Ltd news is because the vast majority of it is as infantile and irrelevant as it is untrustworthy and un-factual. I choose not to purchase a ticket behind News Ltd’s pay-wall, not because I read the ABC instead, but because the content behind the News Ltd pay-wall is not of a quality that I would pay for.

It is ironic that Murdoch’s inability to innovate, and to produce a quality product that is attractive to digital consumers, has led him to campaign against a faster National Broadband Network, which was going to be paid for by the government. This was an infrastructure that an innovative business owner in the digital age would see as a huge opportunity. And the government is paying for it so the commercial sector doesn’t have to! But to Murdoch, progress is a threat. Old people often don’t like change. I just wish Murdoch would stop blaming everyone else for his own inability to run a profitable news business. And rather than spending all his effort trying to elect people who will take Australia backwards to try to destroy his competitors, why doesn’t he take a look at his own business and put some effort into fixing it instead. Or my preferred option – give up altogether.


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  1. Dan Rowden

    Murdoch’s current woes are reflected across the board with the “old media”. Fairfax isn’t exactly setting the world alight either. I don’t find it credible to suggest that arguably the most powerful media mogul in the world is a ‘terrible businessman’. Your or my low opinion of the quality of the content of his empire’s productions are 100% irrelevant to any judgement of the quality of his business acumen. If he was such a bad businessman we wouldn’t all be paranoically afeared of his influence and power. Murdoch may lack the ability to adjust to a rapidly changing media landscape – that is yet to be seen definitively – but to suggest that makes him a poor businessman is akin to saying Hitler was a bad politician because he ultimately lost a war and topped himself.

    If wishing to manipulate politics and politicians to further one’s financial position is some sort of evidence of a lack of sound business sense, then “business” per se is terrible.

  2. bighead1883

    Thank Victoria for putting it all so concisely.
    Many nails all hit on the head.
    Murdoch opinion is not news.

  3. jane

    Murdoch is successful in the sense that he knows where political bodies are buried and can blackmail himself influence. And his success in this country is because he controls print media; not so in other parts of the world.

    Even so, his newspaper empire is also crumbling in this country, because we all have a choice as to where we get our news and more and more of us are abandoning the corruption and lies of the Murdoch press, which in fact doesn’t make a profit.

    The enterprise which is profitable is Fox, but those profits would be seriously eroded once NBN was rolled out, hence the virulent campaign to elect a party he has bought and paid for lock, stock and barrel.

    A party, I might add, whose thirst for power is so great they were/are quite prepared to wreck the joint and are currently living up to this promise. Incidentally, the only promise they are keeping.

  4. michael Koller

    Must totally agree with Dan Rowden. Also, suggesting that in earlier days Murdoch had a monopoly is absolutely wrong. He built an empire during a period of great competition & was an uncanny businessman & that’s why he succeeded. Never underestimate the abilities of someone like Murdoch. He still controls Fox & Sky & has great political influence in Australia & the US, less so in UK following the hacking scandal. I don’t read his papers or watch any of his news shows because they are complete rubbish driven by lies to push a politial agenda.

  5. lawrencewinder

    Good article…. as said, charisma, talent, ideas… if you’ve got ’em the Aspirational Bogans will detest you.
    Just look at their visceral hatred of Keating. He was all they pretended to be and more and he made it by himself. He did what they were too timid to tackle .
    Cory “Bestiality” Bernardi…. a joke on legs!

  6. cornlegend

    As much as I hate the geriatric old scumbag, I don’t think the is a bad businessman.
    His businesses might be evil, but popular., sensationalist
    He knows how to play to the populist lowest common denominated
    I’d swap bank account any day

  7. dave the brickie

    perfect summation of a vile old megalomanic

  8. bilko

    His business failure is in seeing the NBN as a rival rather than in fact an opportunity via the NBN network to have Foxtel with competition from other media sources in almost every home.
    No installation costs to speak of, he could reduce his charges still make heaps of cash and the other businesses who see the NBN’s possibilities progress as well even the country. Why would one oppose such a opportunity??

  9. jasonblog

    This isn’t intended as an ageist comment but I do suspect Rupert Murdoch is past his prime. As a businessman over a long career he has been exceptionally successful and quite brilliant at positioning himself into the zeitgeist. His move into television in the States back in the 80s was a masterstroke of foresight and appreciating the emerging power and influence of cable television.

    Fox Channel does run some really good progressive stuff. It’s funny that this tends to be the successful part of Fox Entertainment that seems to carry the more political and aggressively conservative parts of his media. It’s highly likely that Andrew Bolt’s career has been completely subsidised by the success of The Simpsons!

    I agree about the sorry state of Rupert’s newspapers in Australia. I personally don’t view the ABC as competition to News Corp and it is sad and probably delusional if anybody in News Corp truly thought that it was. Rupert Murdoch certainly is not a terrible businessman and it is laughable to suggest otherwise. He may not be as bold and decisive as he once was but he has outlasted any number of competitors. He may have placed too much faith in his Australian executives. They may have foolishly ridden the ‘horse’ into the ground.

    The biggest problem with Bolt and Ackerman etc is that they are simply poor writers who belong to another era. I agree with your comments about consumers having more choice in the media they engage in and how they engage with it.

  10. GJ

    Tony Abbott – “The perfect tool” – truer words have never been said.

  11. Ronnii Bee

    The one thing that is obvious here, re 2013 election, for as rich and powerful, the likes of Rupert, Gina with their media empires, They have no concept of what a lunatic they have raised to the position of Prime Minister here in Australia. They have no judgement capabilities in that area. Like I have always said, you may have a university degree, but that does not mean that you possess one ounce of common sense. You maybe powerful but it is essential to have a good judgement of character, well guys YOU FAILED,!!!!
    The “mad monk” now reigns…..God Help Australia, because you two didn’t !!!!!!

  12. diannaart

    I humbly suggest that as soon as Murdoch can discover a method to control the internet – he will. However, I am betting that he will die first – but not before corrupting as much of the Emedia as possible. He is, in fact, a very successful and strategic businessman – if you are into oligarchies – a very real threat to free speech if you are not.

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