This passage in the Times story also jumps out at me, implying as it does that Murdoch is playing dirty:
In addition to the ad battle between the papers, Mr. Murdoch’s two New York-based papers, the serious broadsheet Journal and the scrappy tabloid Post, are making a major push for joint ad sales, despite their different readerships — in fact, advertisers say they have been offered deep discounts on Post ads if they buy ads in The Journal.
An important player in The Journal’s plans is Paul V. Carlucci, publisher of The Post and chief of another News Corporation unit, News America Marketing. Mr. Carlucci, a longtime Murdoch loyalist, keeps a low profile but is well known as a skilled, bare-knuckled operator in the world of ad sales. Though he has no formal role in Dow Jones, officials there often consult with him and even report to him.
In several lawsuits, other companies have accused News America Marketing of unfair business practices. The News Corporation ended one case last year by buying the competitor who had filed suit, and this year it paid $500 million to settle a group of other cases.
Within the News Corporation, said one executive who has worked with Mr. Carlucci, “there are no points lost for making mistakes if you are being aggressive.”
Murdoch’s move doesn’t have to be all about the kill, though. The Times is advertising that it has more than twice as many “business professionals” readers in New York City as the Journal. These people’s attention, an ever-dwindling resource, is worth a lot of money.
But it seems unlikely to us that largely liberal New York Times readers are going to peel away in droves to go read a Murdoch newspaper with an edit page slightly to the right of Milton Friedman and news pages that have noticeably moved rightward since he took over (just last week, the paper ran a thinly supported story—one that raised some eyebrows internally—on page one tying Obama to Al Sharpton, who in case readers didn’t get the picture, has a “wavy bouffant and medallion necklaces” in the lede). As Tunku Vardarajan tells the NYT:
“A great deal would have to change for The Journal to appeal to the average Times reader as a substitute,” said Tunku Varadarajan, a business professor at New York University who writes for The Daily Beast blog and is a former assistant managing editor of The Journal. “The justification isn’t obvious to me.”
My guess: It’s a power thing.
More importantly, two million people have subscribed to The Wall Street Journal over the years because it was The Wall Street Journal—not because it was the NYT or the Financial Times. As long as additional features don’t take away from the paper’s core emphasis, then they’re fine.
But many of Murdoch’s moves have been to de-Journalize the Journal, sexing up headlines, cutting story length, diluting depth, adding more stock photos and commodity news, going to straight-news ledes, replacing much of the masthead with non-WSJers, and heading generally to the more slap-dash, once-over-lightly British model.
Remember, Murdoch is a guy who thought about taking the words “Wall Street” out of the paper’s name.
There’s a danger here, but it may not be just for the Times.