Wall Street Journal Prospers Under Murdoch

Last Updated Aug 6, 2008 7:54 PM EDT

It's been a while since we checked in with Rupert Murdoch and the Wall Street Journal. Rumors of the newspaper's decline under the magnate's ownership proved to be wildly exaggerated. Instead, the Journal seems to be systematically enhancing its appeal to a broader audience via both its print and online products here and overseas. When Murdoch's News Corp. announced its (fiscal year) Q-4 earnings this week, the number that jumped out at me was an 88 percent increase in WSJ's online subscriptions. Remember when Murdoch said he would set the online content free, because the increased ad revenue from the resulting traffic explosion would dwarf subscription income?

Once he got his hands on the company's books, however, Murdoch pulled back from that pledge. Now, he seems committed to continue developing both the free and the paid versions online. The redesigned homepage is improved but still not optimally, with awkwardly-placed ad units and a left column that scrolls far below the rest of the content.

So, it's a work in progress. But the dynamic "Breaking News" field at the top of the homepage is an excellent feature, and the basic quality of content keeps this user coming back for more.

As expected, Murdoch views the Journal as a global brand and he is aggressively exploiting opportunities overseas. No other American-based newspaper can compete with Murdoch at this point. One example: The Journal has expanded its Latin American coverage at WSJAmericas.com, and is utilizing Murdoch's Fox International for highly visible cross-promotions over TV networks in Latin America.

Given Murdoch's major (and expanding) media footprint in India, I expect a new push there in the coming year, as well.

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.