Audit Notes: WSJ Live, scot free, Martin Feldstein

Lucrative video streams soar at the Journal

Wall Street Journal deputy managing editor Alan Murray says the paper’s WSJ Live video efforts are growing at a torrid pace, quadrupling last year’s pace with 28 million streams last month, Forbes reports.

The fast growth of WSJ Live hasn’t been lost on professionals in the video business, including some of the TV folks from Fox. Murray said that at first some of the folks at Fox Business were threatened by the nimble low-cost network that WSJ Live had assembled. But Murray is quick to point out that they’re focused on quality journalism, not UGC. “UGC news is total crap” said Murray, just so there was no confusion about how he felt. But he did say that social media was changing journalism, suggesting that more and more people were turning to their friends and neighbors to ‘edit’ their news. He did say that social media is now 10% of their audience, but growing quickly.

In looking at the economics, Murray said that reports that they were earning high value for their web video audience were pretty much on target. “I can’t confirm reports that we’re getting between 50 and 60$ CPM’s” said Murray, “but that’s not far off.”

UGC is user-generated content, by the way. But let’s run some numbers here. If the WSJ is getting, conservatively, $40 a CPM on video and August wasn’t an outlier for traffic, that would put it on a pace for annual revenue of some $17 million—if it were to sell out its inventory, which is a big if.

Still, if it’s even half that, it’s significant.

— The Huffington Post looks at the status of the Obama administration’s financial-fraud task force, reporting that “a source close to the investigation” says not to expect any criminal charges out of it as the statutes of limitations are either up or nearly up:

By pooling investigative resources, it was hoped that the Justice Department, the SEC and a handful of state attorneys general, led by Schneiderman, could accomplish what the agencies had mostly failed to deliver on their own: a sense of justice, however fuzzily defined.

But from the start, the task force — officially, the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group — has been dogged by critics questioning the seriousness of the effort, and by concerns that the legal timeframe in which investigators must bring cases is coming to a close…

How and why the government chose this path will be the subject of debate for years to come. Some say prosecutors lacked resources. Others assert that the complexity of the financial transactions makes it virtually impossible to prove criminal intent in court, where prosecutors must convince a jury of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil action, by contrast, the bar is lower: jurors need only conclude that “a preponderance of evidence” indicates guilt.

— The Journal quoted a Romney economic adviser telling Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke not to stimulate the economy—and fails to point out that he’s a Romney economic adviser (something even the WSJ editorial page disclosed a couple of days earlier):

“The Fed is at a point where another round of quantitative easing would be a mistake,” said Martin Feldstein, a Harvard University professor and former economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

The benefits of bond buying would be small, Mr. Feldstein said at Jackson Hole. He added that the impediments to bringing down unemployment are immense and potentially beyond the Fed’s tools. More than five million Americans have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. Integrating the long-term unemployed back into the workforce will take a long time, Mr. Feldstein said. The Fed risks overstimulating the economy in an effort to address this persistent problem, he added.

I’ll be interested to hear Feldstein’s thoughts on November 7 if Romney wins the election.

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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: , , , ,