Greenslade sees the light?

Media commentator Roy Greenslade has urged the British newspaper industry to follow Rupert Murdoch and start more online experiments if it is to safeguard its future in the era of digital publishing.

After years of naysaying the internet, Murdoch’s News Corp recently splashed out £750 million to snap up MySpace, IGN and Scout Media while, in the UK, BSkyB last week bought broadband provider easynet.

Writing in Tuesday’s Telegraph, Mr Greenslade, professor of journalism at City University, said: “It is crucial for print companies to take an active interest in experiments and, at the same time, to understand the significance of the many creative discoveries and inventions of the cyberspace explorers, no matter how apparently zany. Too many of us have to overcome our conservatism. Murdoch certainly has. He has moved from defence into attack.”

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I think it’s wrong to credit Murdoch as a great visionary leading a crusade to drag a hidebound press into the digital age. I remember when he made that speech last year Jemima Kiss emailed me to say how significant it was that he had been converted and I should cover it in the Journalist. I didn’t because – well I don’t give precious space to stuff that’s covered elsewhere that everyone has seen – it’s a rule of the Journalist not to run anything that could appear anywhere else, which makes a nice change from the rest of media which runs the same stories – but also because I think the emphasis was not quite right.

Murdoch is a smart capitalist who watched the dotcom boom wrily from the sidelines. He always knew what the significance and potential of digital media were but he also knows capitalism, and when capitalism gets into a frenzy about a new technology it always fucks it up – and we know what happened, so he was waiting on the sidelines until the market was big and stable enough to repay investment. Murdoch has always left it to others to take the new technology risks and then pounce – like he did with Eddie Shah and Wapping.

Tim Gopsill, editor of the Journalist, the magazine for members of the UK’s National Union of Journalists.