Audit Notes: News Corp./Wall Street Journal edition

Gerard Baker takes the reins of The Wall Street Journal

Robert Thomson will become CEO of the news-focused News Corp. (the other new company will be called Fox Group) after four and a half years as top editor of The Wall Street Journal, a tenure that saw slightly increased circulation at the paper and a steady newsroom headcount but a de-emphasis of in-depth business news. The WSJ is not the essential read it used to be.

Thomson deputy Gerard Baker will take over as editor, and this hardly looks to be an improvement. Baker used to write a neocon column for The Times of London, and has been fingered for tilting the WSJ’s news coverage to the right.

Here is the new editor of the august Wall Street Journal:

Barney Kilgore, eat your heart out!

— You’ve got to hand it to Rupert Murdoch for trying something new with The Daily and spending scads of money on it.

But the numbers never got close to adding up, and Murdoch is shutting the tablet publication as he prepares to split News Corporation into two companies: Fox Group, which is the cash-rich entertainment company, and News Corp. (called Shitcorp. internally at the WSJ, I’m told), which will be much less able to subsidize money losers.

The Daily launched in February 2011 as an iPad-only platform. At that point, Apple had sold about 8 million iPads in the U.S., meaning less than 3 percent of Americans owned one. It didn’t launch an Android version until a year later.

By this June, 34 million Americans owned iPads, but penetration still has a long way to go.
Even if you consider overall users instead of owners, projections put tablets (both Android and Mac) at 29 percent of U.S. internet users by the end of the year. The Daily made a big mistake writing off more than 71 percent of the Internet for its first year and a half in business (it launched an iPhone app just this May).

One lesson of The Daily then is: Don’t limit yourself to one platform, and if you’re going to do so, make sure it’s one that more than a fraction of potential readers actually use.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S.’s natural gas bonanza is going to be hard to export, which means we’ll likely have a big advantage for years to come. This will be a big deal if it pans out:

Among the reasons for the glacial pace abroad are government ownership of mineral rights, environmental concerns and a lack of infrastructure to drill and transport gas and oil. In addition, much less is known about the geology in most foreign countries than in the U.S., where drilling activity has been going on for more than a century.

The upshot: the U.S. and Canada could remain the main countries to reap the economic advantages of shale development for some time. In both countries, a glut of natural gas and ethane is luring petrochemical companies and fertilizer manufacturers to build new plants—a huge change after years of shifting production abroad. Meanwhile, states like Texas and North Dakota that actually have the shale deposits are getting additional boosts to their local economies from drilling activity.

The Journal also notes that the U.S. is fairly unique in that most mineral rights are controlled privately:

Outside the U.S., mineral rights are typically owned by governments, leaving locals with little reward for putting up with large-scale industrial drilling.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,