Paying For What?

Business Week is planning to experiment with a pay wall for online content. Well, kind of. But it is clear they are hedging their bets and by doing so the magazine is communicating uncertainty. According to MediaWeek  , Business Week content will be available for free but subscribers will get a more “interesting experience”: the subscriber-only view will be print-like in presentation. That is turning the clock back to the late 1990s. In the UK, the now defunct Bonnier newspaper Business Am was the first to introduce an online print presentation, followed a few weeks later in the U.S. by the New York Times. But it wasn’t wildly popular with the online crowd. The reason being? The traditional masqerading as the innovative is a turn-off. Traditional media is still at sea about how to exploit fully digital platforms.

Business Week is hedging bets also by trying what Newsweek and Time have been trying for ages now in different forms: being more forward-leaning with their stories.  But Newsweek and Time just have not been able to pull it off in my mind. They are not good at picking the stories of tomorrow. Business Week also plans to do more on the instant business news front. Heaven knows why — that is a crowded field with Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, the FT and Wall Street Journal. The magazine would be better served — and would better serve readers – by concentrating on what it used to do well: in depth and investigative pieces that draws together politics and business and economics.

One innovation the magazine has just introduced online does have potential. It has created a business social net. The building of community is a good way forward, that is if practitioners, economists, commentators, etc, are brought together exchanging ideas and thoughts. But will that be enough to pay the magazine’s bills?

Berlusconi: Stop Beating Up On Me

It is surprising that they have not clashed loudly before but as New York Times reporter Eric Pfanner notes European media titans Rupert Murdoch and Silvio Berlusconi are hard at it now with the Italian prime Minister claiming that The Times of London has only been covering the relationship between him and 18-year-old model Noemi Letizia because Murdoch was miffed at a tax increase imposed on the Murdoch-owned Sky Italia. Murdoch counter-claim is right: The Times has been restrained in their coverage of Berlusconi compared with The Economist and Financial Times. Pfanner’s article is full of rich ironies. The first is Murdoch saying during an interview with his own business channel in the U.S. — Fox Business — that he doesn’t give orders to the editor of The Times. As anyone who has ever worked at The Times knows, he generally doesn’t have to: astute editors there know when not to cross lines and certainly all the editors I served under were very cautious about how the paper treated media stories or articles that touched on Murdoch business allies or rivals. I recall a story I wrote criticial of Pat Robertson never seeing the light of day: at the time Rupert was involved in business negotiations with Robertson about broadcasting the 700 Club on Sky in Europe.

However, Berlusconi’s accusation against Murdoch — one made without any evidence — doesn’t make sense. Murdoch is hardly going to go out of his way to irritate Berlusconi , especially while he remains in office. Berlusconi could too easily change media rules to affect Murdoch’s Italian business. Berlusconi has a tendency to push through the rubber-state parliament legislation that undermines his foes and, as Pfanner points out, Berlusoni is keen to increase his subscriber share of the satellite market in Italy as his free-channels are suffering from acute falls in advertising revenue.

That aside, the richest irony is hearing Berlusconi complaining  about someone using their media holdings for personal use. Talk about the pot calling the kettle…..